Monday, January 26, 2015

Prop 47 Reaps Rewards

Wonderful news via KPCC:

Los Angeles County probation officials reported Thursday that Los Angeles County's jail population is at its lowest level since realignment sent it soaring in 2012 - and they expect it to keep dropping. They credit voter-approved Proposition 47, which lowered penalties for drug crimes.

In a status report to the county Board of Supervisors, officials said L.A. County's jails had fewer than 16,000 inmates at the end of 2014. Just two months earlier, there were more than 19,000 inmates.

L.A.'s jail population was last under 16,000 inmates in 2011. The numbers began to climb when the state launched its massive "realignment" effort. That policy called for sentencing non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenders to county jail, rather than state prison, which led to overcrowding in the county's jails.

Proposition 47 passed in November and has effectively erased the crowding caused by realignment.

Officials said the drop has allowed them to keep more offenders incarcerated for larger portions of their sentence. They still don't have enough space to keep everyone for their entire sentence.

But officials expect the jail population to keep dropping.

About 2,500 jail inmates are likely eligible for re-sentencing and early release, according to the probation department. Inmates must apply for re-sentencing, and have it approved in court.

A few comments:

(1) This is further proof that it pays off to be cheap on crime.
(2) It's beautiful to see Prop 47 do what the realignment could not - put people out of incarceration in the first place, rather than shift them across jurisdictions - and cure some of the financial and physical bulges created by realignment.
(3) I'm now sitting and waiting for the other shoe to drop--the stories analyzing the impact of Prop 47 on crime rates. When these start coming through, be mindful of research quality; a lot has happened since the recession, and since the realignment, that needs to be controlled for.
(4) Plenty of the L.A. jail inmates are pretrial detainees, who of course are not affected by the passage of Prop 47. How about alleviating some of that unnecessary crowding via sensible bail reform?

Props to Francine Lipman for the link.

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