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California's Realignment: Real Prison Reform Or Shell Game?

Publication Date: 
March 11, 2013
Source: 
The Huffington Post
Author: 
Michael Santos

A new report by Professor Joan Petersilia & Jessica Snyder, JD '13, titled “Looking Past the Hype: 10 Questions Everyone Should Be Asking About California’s Prison Realignment” is highlighted in this Huffington Post article, which focuses on the state’s prison reform legislation known as AB 109.
The report will be published in the April edition of The California Journal of Politics and Policy.

Joan Petersilia, the Adelbert Sweet Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center has coauthored a report with Jessica Snyder, a third-year law student. The two distinguished scholars have led a team of social scientists to explore California's controversial prison reform legislation known as realignment, or AB 109. The title of their report, "Looking Past the Hype: 10 Questions Everyone Should Be Asking About California's Prison Realignment," will be published in the April edition of "The California Journal of Politics and Policy." I've reviewed the informative report and I'll provide Huffington Post readers with a series of articles that offer an inside look at what I've learned.

AB 109 is "the biggest penal experiment in modern history." The legislation went into effect on October 2, 2011. During the past 16 months, realignment legislation has resulted in the altering of sentences for more than 100,000 offenders. By next October, California will have spent more than $2 billion to implement the law. Many billions more will flow into the realignment initiative in years to come.

Despite the billions in spending, the legislature has not allocated a single cent for a statewide evaluation on the effectiveness of realignment. Without that funding for research, Professor Petersilia and Ms. Snyder warn that neither citizens, scholars, nor practitioners will know the impact of realignment on crime, incarceration, justice agencies, or offenders' recidivism.