Panel Paper: Does Community Supervision Lead to More Substance Use Treatment Engagement? a Case Study from Los Angeles

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Lobby Level, Director's Row H (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Gabriel Weinberger, The Bail Project

This case study employs a large, urban county in California and two transformational criminal justice policies, Public Safety Realignment and Proposition 47, to test the effectiveness of utilizing community supervision agencies to maintain individuals engaged to substance use disorder (SUD) treatment.

On October, 2011, California enacted what is considered to be the “biggest penal experiment in modern history,” affecting over 100,000 justice-involved individuals in the first two years. Public Safety Realignment (i.e. Realignment) shifted vast responsibilities from state agencies to individual counties and created 58 different laboratories to learn about community corrections policies. An important consequence of Realignment is that it made community corrections a crucial tool for providing social services, forcing counties to find ways to provide rehabilitation services to their justice-involved population to avoid either overburdening their criminal justice systems or risk worsening public safety. A few years later, Proposition 47, by reclassifying nine offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, would change the landscape of community corrections for county governments. The limited set of available sanctions for these offenses resulting from reclassification, according to actors within the criminal justice system, made it more difficult to provide social services. I utilize this case study to examine the effect of diminished leverage for community corrections on inducing social service take-up.

My study sample is composed of a group under community supervision per Realignment rules, in Los Angeles County, where there was an explicit process by the jurisdiction to improve SUD treatment provision for this group. A policy shock, Proposition 47, led to members within the group to be released from community supervision, which allows me to estimate the supervision’s effect on SUD treatment take-up for this group. I exploit variation in the timing of community supervision terminations, which I show was unpredictable to the affected individuals, to estimate a causal relationship between community supervision and engagement in SUD treatment (where I define engagement as taking up and staying enrolled in SUD treatment services for at least 30 days).

I find that the unpredictable termination of community supervision for individuals in my sample led to a statistically significant decrease in the probability that an individual engages in SUD treatment. This finding has policy implications for California local governments as well as more generally for all jurisdictions looking to reduce their reliance on mass incarceration. I show that as more jurisdictions move to reduce sanctions for low-level crimes associated with drug use, these jurisdictions will have to find alternative mechanisms to the justice system to induce the take-up of social services such as SUD treatment.

Full Paper: