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Rates of Incarceration in California

By    |   Thursday, 31 Dec 2015 05:32 PM

The massive increase of incarceration rates in many U.S. states was a result of the high crime levels throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and that led some states to craft tough crime policies.

California was one of these states, and it increased its prison population between 1975 and 2006 eightfold, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute.

But, the explosion in California’s prison population strained prison capacities and led to inadequate conditions.

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In 2011, a federal court ordered the state of California to reduce prison overcrowding within two years. One reform that has been effective has been realignment.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Public Safety Realignment legislation into law. This, in turn, reduced the state’s reliance on incarceration. It called for changing the sentences of nonserious, nonviolent, and nonsexual offenders, and the rules for parole violators. Ultimately, the county jail and probation systems picked up more responsibilities.

During the first year that the state realignment policy was enforced, the jail and prison incarceration rate fell from 619 per 100,000 residents to 556, according to the PublicCEO report, “Realignment, Incarceration, and Crime Trends in California.” Between September 2012 and June 2014, the total incarceration rate remained fairly stable only creeping up by 0.3 percent, the report said. The number of inmates per 100,000 residents became 568.

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California’s incarceration rate varies among racial groups. For instance, black adult males have been imprisoned at a rate of 4,367 per 100,000, said the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank. This number is much greater in comparison to 922 for Latinos, 488 for non-Latino whites, and 34 for Asians.

Some organizations have advocated for alternatives to incarceration, and even voters have made efforts to change sentencing laws. In 2012, Proposition 36 passed. It limited the severity of California’s three strikes law by indicating that the third offense either be serious or a violent felony. Two years later, Proposition 47 passed, and it let low-level drug possession and theft offenses be considered misdemeanors rather than felonies.

The Public Policy Institute of California found that alternatives to incarceration on the state level have been limited. For instance, one program lets a certain number of female inmates serve their sentence in a community-based facility. On the other hand, some of the state's counties have offered more options, such as home detention and work release.

The PublicCEO report reasoned that when looking at the ordeal from a cost-benefit perspective, incarcerations do prevent some violent crime; however, at current rates the effect wouldn’t be as great. It suggests each additional dollar expended on incarceration only produces 23 cents in “crime savings,” and, therefore, the state would see more benefits from alternative crime preventive strategies.

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The massive increase of incarceration rates in many U.S. states was a result of the high crime levels throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and that led some states to craft tough crime policies. California was one of these states.
incarceration rate, california
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2015-32-31
Thursday, 31 Dec 2015 05:32 PM
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