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CJCJ’s new report finds that drops in prison and jail populations did not correlate with crime rates in 2015.

Ken Teegardin | cre​ativecom​mons​.org

A new research report by CJCJ’s Mike Males and Erica Webster examines the impact of Proposition 47 on crime in California, one year after its implementation. The report compares percentage changes in county-level crime rates to Prop 47-related releases from state prison and changes in county jails’ average daily populations (ADPs) pre- and post-Prop 47. The analysis concludes that there is no correlation between rates of Prop 47-related prison releases or jail population decreases and county crime. 

Prop 47, which passed in November 2014, reduced six nonviolent, non-serious offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. It was also retroactive, allowing incarcerated people serving felony sentences for Prop 47 offenses to shorten their sentences or to be released outright. Critics of the proposition contended it would increase crime by releasing people from jails and prisons, and fail to deter new crimes.

According to CJCJ’s report:

  • Between October 2014 (pre-Prop 47) and October 2015 (post-Prop 47), the average daily population (ADP) in jails across California decreased by about 7,000 people. From November 5, 2014 to December 31, 2015 (post Prop 47), California’s state prisons released over 4,500 people for Prop 47-related reasons.
  • Statewide crime in California increased from 2014 to 2015 after the passage of Prop 47, with violent crime increasing by 9 percent and property crime increasing by 7 percent. However, not all offenses rose in 2015; burglaries decreased by about 4 percent. Crime at the county level showed much more fluctuation, with some counties experiencing a decrease in overall crime. 
  • The data show that reductions in prison and jail populations did not correspond with similar increases in a county’s violent or property crime rates. In fact, counties with similar rates of reduction in their prison and jail populations experienced widely variant crime trends.

The report concludes that counties experiencing greater decreases in prison and jail populations did not report greater relative increases in crime. The inconsistencies in the experiences of counties show it is too early to determine if changes in crime rates can be attributed to Prop 47 only one year after the law’s passage. At present, available data for 2015 continue to suggest that there is no correlation between post-Prop 47 reductions in prison and jail populations and crime.For more information about this topic or to schedule an interview with the authors, please contact CJCJ Communications at (415) 6215661121 or cjcjmedia@​cjcj.​org.