Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 – 12:00 am
Last Modified: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 – 7:34 am

Two years ago, under intense pressure from federal judges to reduce overcrowding in state prisons, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature enacted “realignment,” diverting low-level felons into local jails, supervision and, it was hoped, rehabilitation.

From the politicians’ standpoint, it has been a big success, reducing the prison population by about 30,000 inmates, to within striking distance of the judges’ magic number.

However, local officials have described a very difficult adjustment, even with billions of dollars in implementation money from Sacramento. They say the diversions have packed their jails with felons, forced them to release local miscreants and, some complain, raised crime levels.

Those complaints found their way into an interim report on realignment by a Stanford University team last month. And this week, the Public Policy Institute of California, in another report, attributed an uptick in property crime, particularly car thefts, to criminals who otherwise would have been behind bars.

California has also seen an increase in violent crime after decades of decline, but PPIC concluded, it was not out of line with what had happened in other states.

“We find no convincing evidence of an effect of realignment on violent crime, with the possible exception of an increase in robberies,” PPIC said.

The PPIC report is fine as far as it goes, but it simply does not go far enough, because it’s based on statistics and not actual tracking of what’s happened to tens of thousands of “realigned felons.”

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