Aug. 30, 2016 (San Diego) The Department of Corrections released their latest annual report. In it there are two critical findings. the first is that overall recidivism is down. The number for the cohort was 44.6 percent, down. According to the report: “the three‐year return‐to‐prison rate has trended downward since the Fiscal Year 2005‐06 release cohort, with the most substantial decreases occurring between Fiscal Years 2008‐09 and 2009‐ 10 (6.7 percentage points) and Fiscal Years 2009‐10 and 2010‐11 (9.7 percentage points)”
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This is partly due to realignment that has mandated the increased use of county jails, instead of state facilities, for non-violent offenders.
The report clearly states two things:
The three‐year return‐to‐prison rate for the 95,690 offenders who comprise the Fiscal Year 2010‐11 release cohort is 44.6 percent, which is a 9.7 percentage point decrease from the Fiscal Year 2009‐10 rate of 54.3 percent. Fiscal Year 2010‐11 marks the fifth consecutive year the three‐year return‐to‐prison rate has declined and is the most substantial decrease to‐date.
There is another critical aspect to this report and this is the participation of prisoners in drug treatment programs. It seems they offer a lot of bang for the buck. The report states:
The CDCR offenders who received in‐prison substance abuse treatment (SAT) and/or aftercare demonstrate positive outcomes when compared to offenders who do not receive in‐prison SAT or aftercare. Offenders who received in‐prison SAT and completed aftercare (919 offenders) returned to State prison at a rate of 15.3 percent (or 141 offenders), while offenders who did not receive any form of in‐prison SAT or aftercare (81,743 offenders) returned to prison at a rate of 46.5 percent (or 38,030 offenders), slightly above (1.9 percentage points) the overall three‐year return‐to‐prison rate of 44.6 percent. The 31.2 percentage point difference between the two groups of offenders is one of the most remarkable differences observed in this report and suggests participation in SAT and completion of aftercare has a positive effect on the outcomes of offenders. As shown in the following sections of this report, offenders who received some form of in‐prison SAT or aftercare, consistently returned to prison at lower rates (15.3 percent for offenders who participate in SAT and complete aftercare and 34.4 percent for offenders who participate in SAT and receive some aftercare) than the overall three‐year return‐to‐prison rate of 44.6 percent and at a substantially lower rate than offenders who do not receive any form of in‐prison SAT or aftercare (46.5 percent).
Realignment though has complicated the picture, though return to prison in the first three years after release is down. There is something else that is complicating the picture from the report. That is that those who participated in drug treatment programs in prison and continued with after care had the lowest rate of return.
The Public Policy Institute of California offers quite a bit of that answer. They have been able to review more recent data. According to them:
In September 2011, the month before realignment was implemented, California’s prison population stood at 160,700, or 431 inmates per 100,000 residents (Figure 1). Three months later it had dropped to 144,000, and by September 2012 it had fallen to 133,400 (355 inmates per 100,000 residents). After that, the population increased slowly until November 2014, when voters passed Proposition 47.4 After that, the prison population dropped by almost 5,000, to about 131,200 (or 341 inmates per 100,000 residents). This reduction—along with the increased use of in-state contract beds in both public and private facilities and the opening of a new health care facility in Stockton—has reduced overcrowding and brought the prison population into compliance with the federal court–ordered target of 137.5 percent of design capacity. The prison population now stands at 136.1 percent of design capacity, about 1,200 inmates below the mandate, ahead of the February 2016 deadline.
This is critical, since the prison population has not increased, but neither have those in county jails There is also a decrease in crime rates, according to the Department of Justice. It is clear that incarceration rates have maintained, and that the State does not need to rely on incarceration. PPIC agrees that there is a need for new approaches.
From a cost-benefit perspective, incarceration does prevent some crime, but at current rates its effect is very limited.13 The estimated crime preventive effects remain unchanged from our earlier report: each additional dollar spent on incarceration generates only 23 cents in “crime savings.” This suggests that the state would benefit from seeking alternative crime preventive strategies. There are many promising approaches—from early childhood programs and targeted interventions for high-risk youth to increased policing and cognitive behavioral therapy. Also promising are alternative systems for managing probationers and parolees—including swift-and-certain yet moderate sanctions that have been implemented by systems such as Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE).
We are likely moving slowly away from an age of mass incarceration, The policy is still lagging the needs, but we are starting to see changes in both philosophy and intent. One of the drivers in the state is Prop 47, which converted some drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, and has also forced the increase in other approaches. Also counties need to find a way to manage populations and keep costs down, since prisoners who used to go to the state, now stay in the county system.
What is also true is that the state still has a very high recidivism rate, at 53.4 percent, compared to the 44.6 percent, which is the state average. So there are challenges that remain in the County. That said, the County department of Corrections has very little to do with State parolees, if at all. These are two separate systems that rarely talk to each other.
There are also costs associated with this system. Probations is the cheapest leg of the system.