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Counties Object To Jail Formula

Publication Date: 
November 07, 2011
Daily Journal
. By Henry Meier

Visiting Assistant Professor David Ball spoke with Henry Meier of the Daily Journal to discuss how data on the criminal justice system in California doesn't support the current funding formula.

As California gears up to distribute funds to local authorities for realigning the prison system, some counties are raising objections over how the dollars are being allocated.

Counties like San Francisco and Alameda say they are being "financially punished" for reducing their prison population, while other counties say they are being rewarded for throwing more people in prison.


David Ball, an assistant professor at the Santa Clara School of Law and co-chair of the Corrections Committee of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section, said data on the criminal justice system in California doesn't support the current funding formula.

"Counties use prisons at really dramatically different rates from one another," he said. "These rates can't be explained by references to rates of reported violent crime. In fact, violent crime only explains about 3 percent of the variance in new felon admissions."

Ball said tying funding to the number of prisoners in a county is a poor way to allocate resources if the goal is to reduce overall crime rates.

"I don't think giving more money to counties with higher incarceration rates is going to solve the problem," he said.


Ball, the law professor, admitted it was each individual county's prerogative to administer justice the way it wants to, but he said the state providing more money to counties that put more people in prison and jail is a misguided policy.

"If San Bernardino wants to utilize prisons at a higher rate, they should put their money where their mouth is," he said. "They should be happy to pay for [the extra costs] if they feel it reduces crime. But [their programs] don't benefit every county."