The Effect of California's Public Safety Realignment on Recidivism
Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 8:50 AM
Johnson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
This study estimates the effect of California's landmark Public Safety Realignment on recidivism outcomes. Realignment dramatically reduced the prison population by 25,000 inmates in the first twelve months, achieved through changing the site in which lower-level felons serve their terms from prison to county jail and limiting the pool of offenders eligible to be returned to prison. At the time of passage, strong claims were made about the likely impact - positive or negative - of realignment on recidivism. At this stage, in the fourth year of implementation, it is appropriate to investigate a key question for criminologists: what was the effect of this policy on recidivism outcomes? In order to address this question, we leverage data we have recently collected from twelve county correctional systems and merged with state data from the California Department of Justice and Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. This new, individual-level data source captures offender demographics, criminal histories, and recidivism outcomes. Using a matched pre-alignment cohort, we first estimate the statewide effect of realignment on recidivism. We then examine how outcomes vary across counties and whether these differences can be explained by variation in the use of new correctional tools, including "flash" incarceration and split-sentencing, under realignment.