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Key Factors in Arrest Trends and Differences in California’s Counties

By Magnus Lofstrom, Brandon Martin, Justin Goss, Joseph Hayes

Arrests in California have declined in the last few decades—driven by lower crime rates and criminal justice reforms. While rural, poorer counties tend to have higher overall arrest rates, affluent counties often see larger racial disparities in arrests.

blog post

Interview: Citizenship and the 2020 Census

By Vicki Hsieh, Eric McGhee

With the Supreme Court blocking the Trump administration’s plans to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, PPIC researcher Eric McGhee discusses what the decision means for California.

blog post

Governor’s Funding Plan for Climate, Drought

By Caitrin Chappelle, Jelena Jezdimirovic

A summary of key proposals in the governor’s proposed budget that reaffirm the state’s commitment to boosting drought resiliency and battling climate change.


Public Safety Realignment: Impacts So Far

By Magnus Lofstrom, Brandon Martin

Prompted by a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding, California’s 2011 historic public safety realignment shifted many correctional responsibilities for lower-level felons from the state to counties. The reform was premised on the idea that locals can do a better job, and it was hoped that incarceration rates and corrections costs would fall. At the same time, critics predicted crime would rise. Four years since its implementation, realignment has made several important impacts:

  • Realignment significantly reduced the prison population, but the state did not reach the court-mandated population target until after the passage of Proposition 47 in November 2014, which reduced penalties for many property and drug offenses.
  • The reform challenged county jails and probation departments by making them responsible for a greater number of offenders with a broader range of backgrounds and needs.
  • The county jail population did not rise nearly as much as the prison population fell, reducing the total number of people incarcerated in California.
  • Realignment did not increase violent crime, but auto thefts rose.
  • Research so far shows no dramatic change in recidivism rates.
  • State corrections spending remains high, but there is reason to believe expenditures could drop in the future.

Realignment has largely been successful, but the state and county correctional systems face significant challenges. The state needs to regain control of prison medical care, which is now in the hands of a federal receiver. And the state and counties together must make progress in reducing stubbornly high recidivism rates.

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