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Women in Jail

By Ryken Grattet, Viet Nguyen

Women are the fastest growing segment of America’s jail population, yet the characteristics of female inmates are not well documented.


California’s Historic Corrections Reforms

By Magnus Lofstrom, Mia Bird, Brandon Martin

California has dramatically lowered incarceration—by about 55,000 inmates since 2006—with no broad increase in crime. But recidivism rates remain high and corrections spending continues to rise.


California’s County Jails in the Era of Reform

By Sonya Tafoya, Mia Bird, Ryken Grattet, Viet Nguyen

California’s county jails have been profoundly affected by several reforms over the last decade. Most importantly, in 2011, public safety realignment shifted responsibility for large numbers of non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenders from state prisons to county correctional systems. This lowered the state prison population—allowing prisons to prioritize beds for more serious offenders—but increased county jail populations. Three years later, Proposition 47 downgraded a range of drug and property offenses from potential felonies to misdemeanors. The reduced population pressure has allowed jails to prioritize beds for more serious drug and property offenders who are no longer eligible for prison.

Despite the growing importance of jails, little is known about the basic characteristics of jail populations. In this report, we analyze state and local data on individuals moving through county correctional systems. Using data from 11 counties, we find that:

  • Reforms altered the offender composition of the jail population, especially among those held on drug and property crimes. After three years under realignment, the number of drug and property offenders in jails increased by 55 percent and 40 percent, respectively. One year after the passage of Proposition 47, the number of drug and property offenders fell by 35 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
  • Length of stay for felony drug and property offenders increased after realignment. For example, median time served for felony drug offenders released in October 2011 was 45 days, compared to 98 days for those released in October 2015. However, length of stay for people who served time for misdemeanors and felony crimes against persons has remained stable.
  • Releases due to overcapacity rose under realignment and dropped after Proposition 47, when jail population pressure eased.
  • The demographic composition of jails has largely remained stable. But the age distribution does show modest signs of change: the share of those ages 18–21 in jail has decreased slightly, as the share of those in their 30s has increased.

As jail populations shift toward more serious drug and property offenders, counties and the state will need to consider how jail security and rehabilitative programs might be made more effective. While researchers and policymakers continue to examine the longer-term effects of realignment and Proposition 47, it is also important to keep in mind that the recent reprioritization of jail beds may have implications for crime and recidivism.


How Has Proposition 47 Affected California’s Jail Population?

By Sonya Tafoya, Mia Bird, Ryken Grattet, Viet Nguyen

Passed by the voters in 2014, Proposition 47 reduced penalties for certain drug and property crimes. This change led to dramatic declines in the state's jail population, driven by decreases in arrests, convictions, and jail time for Proposition 47 offenders.

This research was supported with funding from The California Endowment.

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Preliminary Data Show Higher Crime Rates in 2015

By Magnus Lofstrom, Brandon Martin

Preliminary data from the FBI offer discouraging news about crime trends in California’s largest cities. However, the data also show that cities in other states are also experiencing increases in crime.

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Putting the Governor’s Sentencing Proposal in Context

By Magnus Lofstrom, Brandon Martin

Governor Brown’s proposed ballot measure could significantly alter sentencing in California. It follows the path of decreased reliance on incarceration that the state has been on since 2009.

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