Poster Paper: California's Proposition 47: How Did This Reduction in Penalities for Lower-Level Drug and Property Offenses Affect Incarceration Levels and Recidivism Rates?

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Mia Bird1, Viet Nguyen1 and Ryken Grattet2, (1)Public Policy Institute of California, (2)University of California, Davis

California passed Proposition 47 in November 2014. This policy reform reduced the penalties associated with lower-level drug and property offenses and redirected correctional savings to support an increase in behavioral health treatment interventions. This study assess the impacts of Prop 47 on incarceration levels and recidivism outcomes. We draw on a unique dataset – the Multi-county Study data – capturing individuals as they move through local and state criminal justice systems. We first examine descriptive changes in criminal justice contact before and after Prop 47. We find substantial reductions in the number of individuals who are booked into jail following Prop 47 and, for those booked into jail in the post period, we find reductions in the frequency of bookings. We then leverage the passage of Prop 47 as a natural policy experiment to identify the effects of this policy change on rearrest and recidivism outcomes. We find evidence of significant reductions in recidivism rates for Prop 47 offenders in the post-period, driven by reductions in rearrests and reconvictions for Prop 47 offenses. We recognize that the policy change likely induced changes in behavior at both the individual level and the criminal justice system level. We find evidence of reductions in both law enforcement and prosecution, although it is not possible to separate these system-level changes from changes in offender misconduct.