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Report

Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops

By Magnus Lofstrom, Joseph Hayes, Brandon Martin, Deepak Premkumar

Traffic stops have emerged as a key driver of racial disparities in law enforcement and an area of potential reform. Our new report examines whether certain types of traffic stops could be enforced in alternative ways that reduce racial disparities and risks to officers and civilians without jeopardizing public safety.

Policy Brief

Policy Brief: Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops

By Magnus Lofstrom, Joseph Hayes, Brandon Martin, Deepak Premkumar

Our findings suggest that nighttime traffic stops for non-moving violations—especially those made by local police and sheriff departments—deserve consideration for alternative enforcement strategies. However, any changes need to be balanced against the possibility of hampering efforts to confiscate dangerous contraband, especially firearms.

blog post

Video: Policing in California

By Stephanie Barton

PPIC’s Deepak Premkumar and Magnus Lofstrom discuss new reports that examine racial disparities in law enforcement stops and analyze police use of force and misconduct.

Report

Police Use of Force and Misconduct in California

By Deepak Premkumar, Alexandria Gumbs, Shannon McConville, Renee Hsia

Nearly 200 Californians die each year in police encounters. Amid growing concern over civilian deaths and racial injustice, we examine what the existing data can—and cannot—tell us about police use of force and misconduct. We also offer recommendations for strengthening the state’s ongoing efforts to improve police transparency and accountability.

blog post

Hidden Risk of Domestic Violence during COVID-19

By Joseph Hayes, Heather Harris

Although police reports of domestic violence do not seem to have increased during shelter-in-place, data from hotlines and service providers suggest a troubling upward trend.

Fact Sheet

Public Preschools in California

By Caroline Danielson, Tess Thorman

Most parents of young children work, but public preschool programs are fragmented and currently unable to serve all who are eligible. Improvements will require a multipronged approach.

Report

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.

Report

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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