By Beatriz Valenzuela
Despite being blamed by some members of law enforcement for a recent uptick in crime in some counties, there is no connection between California’s Prison Realignment and increased criminal activity, according to a report released Wednesday.
The Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice report found little evidence of there being more crime due to realignment based on random crime trends in counties since the implementation of the law.
For example, Los Angeles County, which has one of the highest percentage of realigned offenders, has continued to see a steady drop in total crime, including an 11 percent decrease in violent crime.
This lack of a clear pattern of crime shows it’s still too soon to draw any conclusion when it comes to the relationship between realignment and crime, according to a Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice news release.
“We are pleased that CJCJ took an impartial look at the data and found no causal relationship between crime and realignment…,” said Jeffrey Callison, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Callison said crime rates are continually rising and falling, and they vary from one community to the next, and from one crime category to the next.
California was ordered to reduce the state prison population to about 110,000, or 137.5 percent of prison capacity, as a way to improve the quality of inmates’ health. To accomplish that, Assembly Bill 109, the state’s prison realignment law, shifted the responsibility of monitoring lower-level inmates from the state to the counties.
Under AB 109, those convicted of a triple-non offense — nonviolent, nonserious, nonsexual — would be eligible to be supervised by county probation departments or serve their sentences in county jail. AB 109 was implemented Oct. 1, 2011, as a way for the state to comply with a federal three-judge panel’s order to decrease the population of California’s prisons. The panel found the overcrowded conditions in state prisons led to inadequate medical attention for inmates.
However, high-ranking law enforcement officials from across the state have talked about the dangers of prison realignment.
Glendale Police Chief Ronald De Pompa has called the legislation “dangerous public policy,” and Fontana Police Chief Rod Jones has labeled the law a failure after an AB 109 probationer, David Mulder, allegedly fatally stabbed a woman in 2013 at a Fontana Park and Ride.
At this week’s Lakewood State of the City address, sheriff’s Capt. Merrill Ladenheim referenced a report from the Public Policy Institute of California that found a connection between AB 109 and property crimes. During his presentation at the meeting, Ladenheim called realignment, as well as the issue of county jail capacity, a challenge to public safety.
Along with finding no real connection between realignment and an increase in crimes, the Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice report, which used data from 2010 to 2012, found that California’s 58 counties have seen varying crime rates since the implementation of AB 109.
Kings County had a 46 percent increase in violent crime trends, according to the data used for the report, while Humboldt and Napa counties saw a 26 percent drop.
Los Angeles County, which received a higher-than-average proportion of realigned offenders, has experienced a drop in violent as well as property crimes.
Only Placer, Sacramento, San Mateo and Tulare counties experienced similar, across-the-board crime reductions, however, they have relatively smaller populations compared to Los Angeles County.
San Bernardino County saw an increase in overall crime by about 10 percent from 2010 to 2012 but a slight decrease in violent crime.
Some experts said they feel it’s not necessarily those who are under county supervision who may be driving up some crime rates but those who are no longer under the watch of any agency.
“Realignment now permits offenders who are sentenced under AB 109 guidelines to be given straight or split sentencing, thus allowing them to avoid any supervision after serving a jail sentence instead of a prison commitment,” said Chris Condon, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Probation Department.
Under sentencing code 1170, a person convicted of a triple-non can opt to serve a portion of their time in county jail and then spend the remainder of their time being supervised by county probation. They can also serve their entire time in county jail and not require any supervision once their terms have been completed.
“These offenders do not fall under our jurisdiction, and recidivism rates cannot be determined,” Condon said. “We know that there has been a 40 percent reduction in recidivism for the AB 109 offenders we do supervise.”