Fewer parolees returned to California state prisons after Realignment

SOURCE: cdcr.ca.gov

Fewer parolees have returned to state prisons since California instituted the public safety “Realignment” 18 months ago, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Realignment was ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2011 after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal court order requiring the state to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of design capacity within 2 years, citing ongoing violations of the prisoners’ constitutional rights to receive basic medical and mental health care.

Read more: California prison mental health system

Under “Realignment”, counties have assumed more responsibility for supervising and incarcerating non-violent and non-serious parolees and offenders. In addition, parolees who have violated their parole will serve their time county jails instead of being automatically returned to state prisons.

This shift in responsibilities has allowed the state to reduce its prison population and focus its resources on incarcerating serious, violent, or sexual offenders as well as improve the mental health and health care systems in state prisons.

Preliminary figures released by CDCR on May 16th showed that arrest rates of prison parolees are down by 3.3% during the first 6 months of Realignment.

The re-arrest rate of parolees was 62% pre-Realignment and dropped slightly to 58.7% post-Realignment. Most of the re-arrests (42.5%) were for drug and property-related felonies. Parole violations accounted for 34.4% of the re-arrests followed by misdemeanors (23.1%).

Most counties have reported lowered arrest rates, including Los Angeles (-1.9%), Riverside (-4.1%), San Diego (-2.7%), San Francisco (-3.9%), and Ventura (-3.5%) counties.

Counties that have reported higher arrest rates include: Orange (2.7%), San Benito (8.5%), Madera (2.5%), Placer (2.0%), San Luis Obispo (3.6%), and Stanislaus (2.2%).

The CDCR figures, which compared data from the pre-Realignment period from October 2010 to March 2011 with the post-Realignment period from October 2011 to March 2012, also showed a dramatic drop in the return-to-prison rates of parolees.

Prior to Realignment, 42% of parolees were returned to prison after 1 year of their release. Of those, only 21% returned to prison for committing a new crime; 79% of them were sent back to prison because of parole violations.

The return-to-prison rate after Realignment fell to 7.4%, primarily because parolees who violate their parole terms or commit non-serious or non-violent crimes are being sent to county jails instead of prison. Nearly all of those – 99% – returned to prison post-Realignment have been convicted of new crimes (compared to just 21% pre-Realignment).

“Post-Realignment, almost all offenders who return do so due to a new conviction,” according to CDCR’s Realignment report. “The low number of parole violators being returned to prison is another indicator that Realignment is working as intended. The vast majority of all parole violators are now sent to county jails instead of prison.”

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