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Study of California’s Prison Realignment Provides Lessons For Indiana

Jul 06 2016, by Sean Hessler in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

A recent study analyzing the impact of California’s prison realignment found no major impact on public safety. In 2011, California passed the Public Safety Realignment Act, which was prompted by a federal court mandate to reduce overcrowding in the state’s prison population and diverted low-level offenders into probation, community corrections, or county jails. No inmates in state prison at the time the law passed were released early or transferred to county jails.

The state prison population was substantially reduced during the first year of realignment and then eventually leveled off. Fifteen months after the passage of the Public Safety Realignment Act was passed, the state had reduced the size of the prison population by 27, 527 inmates amounting to a 17% reduction overall. The prison populations fell again in 2012 and 2014 when California voters passed Proposition 36 to revise the state’s three-strikes law and Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for various drug and property crimes.

The biggest concern raised by prison realignment was whether it would have an adverse impact on public safety. The results of a study released in 2016 show that the realignment efforts had no impact on violent or property crime aggregate rates in 2012, 2013, or 2014. While the researchers did note that auto theft did rise slightly in 2012 and 2013, the rates had returned to normal by 2014. The study also revealed that California had saved $453 million in 2012 alone from the reduction in the prison population.

Indiana’s Efforts to Address Rising Prison Population

The results of the study could provide a meaningful lesson for Indiana. The Indiana legislature passed major sentencing reform legislation by way of House Enrolled Act 1006, which took effect in 2014. The law revised the felony portion of Indiana’s criminal code to provide alternative sentencing to non-violent felony offenders through community-based programs and county jails. The law also gives judges greater discretion in sentencing low-level, non-violent offenders.

As of 2013, when HEA 1006 was passed, Indiana’s incarceration rate was three times that of other Midwest states and slight above the national average. The goal of the reforms was to reduce overcrowding in Indiana prisons and rehabilitate offenders to decrease recidivism rates. Lawmakers who backed the bill pointed to Indiana’s growing prison population, which has increased by 40 percent since 2000.

Soon after the law passed, it was met with skepticism about how it would be paid for and concerns that local communities would be overwhelmed by the influx of offenders. In 2015, the Indiana legislature approved additional funding for community corrections and local mental heath and addiction services. While it may be too early to say whether the reforms have been a success, one study estimates that as many as 14,000 low-level offenders will be diverted to county jails or community corrections programs.

How the Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers in Indianapolis Can Help You

If you are facing criminal charges, you should contact the experienced Indiana criminal defense attorneys at Hessler Law right away to discuss your legal options. We understand the uncertainty you may be feeling about what is going to happen, which is why we will work tirelessly to protect your rights and freedom. We have extensive experience on both sides of the process — both prosecution and defense -– and we will fight to obtain the best outcome possible in your case.

We have successfully defended individuals facing a wide range of criminal charges in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas and we are ready to put our skill and knowledge to work for you. Call (317) 886-8800 today to receive a free, initial consultation.