In 2011 Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 109, commonly referred to as “prison realignment,” which shifted to counties the responsibility for monitoring, tracking, and incarcerating lower-level offenders previously bound for state prison. In brief, AB 109 (and AB 117, a companion bill) altered both sentencing and post-prison supervision for the newly statutorily classified “non-serious, non-violent, non-sex” offenders. While the legislation is comprehensive and complex, three major groups are affected by Realignment. First, felony offenders who have never been convicted of a “serious” or “violent” crime or an aggravated white collar crime and are not required to register as sex offenders (colloquially referred to as the “triple-nons”) will now serve their sentences in local custody. Second, released prisoners whose current commitment offense qualifies them as “triple-non” offenders are diverted to the supervision of county probation departments under “Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS).” Third, if persons on PRCS violate the technical conditions of their supervision (rather than committing a new crime), they can no longer be returned to State prison but must be sanctioned in local (county) jail or community alternatives, including house arrest, drug treatment, or flash incarceration.
- Evaluating the Effects of California’s Corrections Realignment on Public Safety by Magnus Lofstrom, Joan Petersilia, and Steven Raphael
Joan Petersilia's Keynote Address at the "Public Safety Realignment: Practices in Population Management" Conference Held on November 1-2, 2012 and Sponsored by the California State Association of Counties, California State Sheriffs' Association and Chief Probation Officers of California.
Stanford Criminal Justice Center Realignment Research Projects
The Stanford Criminal Justice Center is undertaking a number of research projects aimed at better understanding the implementation and effect of California’s Public Safety Realignment legislation. In particular, through the following four research projects, we are analyzing the extent to which California’s move to downsize state prisons through Public Safety Realignment legislation has changed the decision-making and resource allocation of the primary actors in the criminal justice system. Our work includes original data collection and analysis (projects 1 through 4) as well as convening thought leaders across the state to study and identify solutions to the biggest challenges arising from Realignment’s implementation (project 5).
Funding for these projects comes from the National Institute of Justice; the James Irvine Foundation; and the Public Welfare Foundation.
(1) How Justice Systems Realign in California: Policies and Systemic Effects of Prison Downsizing (Joan Petersilia): We are collecting data and analyzing the approach California’s 58 counties have taken to implementing Realignment with particular attention to capturing the key variations among the 58 county plans and how the distinct demographics, political dynamics, and criminal justice and social service cultures of particular counties predict the overall approaches and key components of their plans.
(2) Voices from the Field: Emerging Trends in Realignment (Joan Petersilia and Robert Weisberg): We have interviewed over 90 criminal justice practitioners (prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, sheriffs, probation chiefs, parole agents, victim services representatives) across 12 counties to assess their approach to and implementation of Realignment and identify promising programs created by Realignment. As representative of the State, the following counties are being analyzed: Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, and Solano Counties.
(3) The View from the Bench: Sentencing After Realignment (Robert Weisberg): Using approaches from the fields of criminology, law and economics and the development of hypothetical survey instruments, we are polling judges across California as to how their sentencing decisions have changed post-Realignment in an effort to capture whether and what kind of variance has resulted. We are collaborating with the California Judges Association in the administration of the survey.
(4) How Has Realignment Affected Prosecutorial Discretion (Robert Weisberg and David Ball): Using a similar approach to that being used for our statewide judges study, we are developing hypothetical survey instruments and polling prosecutors across California as to how their charging decisions have changed post-Realignment in an effort to capture whether and what kind of variance has resulted.
(5) Stanford Executive Session on Public Safety Realignment (Matt Cate, Debbie Mukamal and Sarah Lawrence): We are studying the impact of Realignment on the front-end of the criminal justice system through the convening of four, full-day Executive Session meetings, development of four background papers, and writing of a report that summarizes the major front-end issues created by Realignment, identifies policy recommendations, and highlights best practices among California’s 58 counties to address those issues. For more information, click here.
Matt Cate, former Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and current Executive Director of the California State Association of Counties, serves as the Chair of the Executive Session. Other Executive Session members include: Sheriff Bill Brown (Santa Barbara); Jim Bueermann (Police Foundation); Police Chief Jerry Dyer (Fresno); District Attorney George Gascon San Francisco); Director of Pre-trial Services Garry Herceg (Santa Clara); Sheriff Sandra Hutchens (Orange County); Probation Chief Jerry Powers (Los Angeles); and Police Chief Kim Raney (Covina). The first Executive Session will convene in Summer 2013 and address jail management and capacity issues.
We anticipate having articles and reports to share as early as Spring 2013 and running into Fall 2013. Forthcoming articles include:
- “Looking Past the Hype: 10 Questions Everyone Should Ask about California’s Prison Realignment” by Joan Petersilia and Jessica Snyder (California Journal of Politics and Policy, April 2013)
- “California Victims’ Rights in a Post-Realignment World” by Joan Petersilia and Jessica Spencer (Federal Sentencing Reporter, June 2013)
Key Faculty and Staff
Joan Petersilia, Co-Faculty Director and Professor of Law: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Weisberg, Co-Faculty Director and Professor of Law: email@example.com
Debbie Mukamal, Executive Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Cate, Law and Policy Fellow and Executive Director, California State Association of Counties
Sarah Lawrence, Research Director, Front-End Realignment Project: email@example.com
David Ball, Assistant Professor, Santa Clara School of Law: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Quan, Research Assistant: email@example.com
Sara Abarbanel, Administrative Associate: firstname.lastname@example.org
Faculty Co-Director Joan Petersilia taught a new seminar in Fall 2011 focused exclusively on better understanding and analyzing Realignment's sentencing and corrections changes. For more information, please see the following class syllabus, brief description of the student papers, Roadmap for Realignment, and student papers: