Groups disagree if California crime rise related to prison plan


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Public policy groups are seizing on new statistics from the FBI to claim California’s prison realignment plan is causing ‘significant increases’ in crime, even as others say the numbers show no connection at all.

The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation said the FBI numbers released this week show a 7.6% increase in homicide and double-digit increases in burglary and auto thefts the first half of 2012 when compared to the first six months of 2011. Foundation President Michael Rushford said the cause is obvious: Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2011 plan to cut state spending and ease prison crowding by making nonviolent felonies county jail offenses. He said the numbers give credence to anecdotal stories of increased crime across California since the plan took effect.


“This report tends to confirm what police chiefs, sheriffs, parole officers, and even some judges have been warning us about over the past year. Crime in California is increasing under realignment,” Rushford said.

Not so fast, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

The center agrees that violent and property crimes in California rose in 40 of California’s 69 large cities, the biggest crime increase the state has seen in 20 years. Those crime rates varied greatly by community, rising as high as 33% in San Mateo and dropping as low as 13% in Santa Barbara.

Researcher Mike Males said there was no connection between those changes and places with the largest proportion of ‘realigned offenders,’ individuals who would have gone to prison in the past but are now the wards of counties. In fact, crime rates dropped in five counties receiving a disproportionate share of those new prisoners.

‘Analysis of the best data available to date suggests that offenders and parolees who have not committed violent or serious crimes can be supervised at the local level without jeopardizing public safety,’ Males said.


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-- Paige St. John in Sacramento