Many Republican law makers, law enforcement officials and victims' rights groups argue that the shift in California's penal system pushed through legislature by Gov. Jerry Brown a couple years ago has spurred crime rates across the state. The shift, referred to as “realignment” has been one of the nation's largest criminal justice experiments and while it has resulted in some benefits, it has also resulted in an increase in California's crime rate, according to some.
Under realignment individuals accused of non-violent, non-sexual and non-serious felonies in the state of California are required to serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prisons. These individuals are also required to be supervised by local probation officers rather than state parole agents upon their release.
The shift has certainly done its job in reducing the population in California's 33 adult prisons. Today, the state's system ranks second to Texas in the number of inmates that are housed in its prisons. This is a huge drop, especially since Texas has 12 million fewer residents than California.
Although the shift has dramatically reduced the number of inmates in California state prisons, it has created quite the controversy since there is now an overload of inmates in county jails, allowing for many of these inmates to be released early and not to be properly monitored after they are released.
In the first six months of 2012, for example, property and violent crimes rose in 40 of California's 69 largest cities. According to the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, the increase in crime is a direct result of realignment.
However, according to the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, violent crime rates actually dropped in five counties where many of the lower-level offenders are who would have previously gone to state prison.
The policy serves as an experiment as to whether prison populations can be reduced without posing a threat to public safety. But, the result of the experiment is not yet known. To date, the realignment has helped reduce the state prison population by about 25,000 inmates, but the federal courts say this is not enough. The courts argue that another 9,000 plus inmates must be removed from state prisons by the end of the year.