In April, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) released a report suggesting that the number of inmates given early release in the year after enactment of Proposition 57, who were convicted of new crimes over the next three years, declined by 3%. The report tracked inmates released in 2017-18, who were convicted of a new crime by 2021.
“This is the first cohort of released people after the passage of Proposition 57, and it is encouraging to see that credit-earning opportunities, particularly in education-led programs, is having a positive impact to improve public safety,” said CDCR Secretary Jeff Macomber.
Supporters of Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, which was sponsored by Governor Jerry Brown and progressive billionaire George Soros, claimed that increasing sentence-reduction credits for inmates participating in rehabilitation programs, would result in fewer inmates committing additional crimes.
However, a careful review of the data provided in the CDCR report, conducted by the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, found little evidence to support Macomber’s claim.
The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation’s Research in Brief report (RIB) released today notes that “a closer look reveals that the CDCR report does not rigorously evaluate Prop. 57’s effectiveness as a formal research study would. Macomber’s claim is a crude overstatement of what the data actually show.”
The RIB report points to data presented by the California State Auditor and the California Rehabilitation and Oversight Board (C-ROB) which indicates that many inmates given early release under Prop. 57 have not had their rehabilitative needs met. The C-ROB found that 40% of inmates released in 2017-18 had not participated in any rehabilitation program. The State Auditor found that 62% of released inmates considered “at risk” for committing new crimes had not had their rehabilitative needs addressed.
“In essence, the state is granting early release to criminals, including dangerous criminals, for participating in programs that they either did not join or did not complete,” said CJLF Research Associate Elizabeth Berger.
The RIB report also quotes California’s former CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard who in federal litigation noted that the state had already redirected the best candidates for early release to the counties under Public Safety Realignment of 2011 (AB 109) and The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014 (Proposition 47). Shortening the sentences of the remaining inmates, convicted of more serious and violent crimes would “pose an undue risk to public safety and [would] not reflect sound correctional practice.”
“California is currently experiencing a notable increase in serious and violent crimes, often perpetrated by repeat offenders. It is misleading to claim that this statistical report indicates that shortening the incarceration periods of inmates who have not undergone rehabilitation measures is an effective means of protecting the public from crime,” said Berger.
The Foundation’s Research in brief is available at this link: https://www.cjlf.org/program/
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