And soon after the Supreme Court decision, the voters of California were sending clear signals that they wanted to end the era of mass incarceration as well. Through two statewide initiatives, Propositions 36 and 47, voters managed to release or stop the imprisonment of thousands of inmates just as the Legislature was preparing its own plan.
And Proposition 47 , approved by voters in , converted many nonviolent offenses, such as shoplifting, writing bad checks and drug possession, from felonies to misdemeanors. In his first year in office, Brown and the Legislature faced a huge task. The new law, AB , reclassified the way the state looked at about crimes to effectively eliminate the possibility of prison time.
It applied to anyone convicted of a crime after Oct.
Before and after it was signed by Brown, some lawmakers and local law enforcement predicted the law would lead to an increase in crime at a local level because thousands of inmates would now be housed, and released on probation, in their towns and cities. So did changing the sentencing laws and realignment really cause a spike in crime?
Their answer: No, with one exception :. Over the past few years, California has faced what realignment really means. They found 44 were serving terms of more than 10 years. In the seven years before the realignment, 23 inmates died in jail custody. That figure more than doubled to 47 deaths during the seven years after the state shifted more responsibility to the county jails, Pohl and Gabrielson reported. The state handed the county sheriffs a huge problem and shifted billions of dollars to help them fix it.
But some have viewed the changes as a burden, not an opportunity. Their jails lack adequate health care. The indifference in some jails has come partly because sheriffs hold a unique place in law enforcement: elected to their own fiefdoms, they cannot be fired except by the voters. California is home to 56 counties with jails, and almost all of them are run by sheriffs who have little oversight beyond the next election.
In Fresno, Sheriff Margaret Mims said she views jail deaths as almost inevitable : there is violence on the outside and violence on the inside. Fixing the California prisons has been an exhausting fight for decades. The Supreme Court decision and the realignment law seemed to set the stage for serious changes.
But now, the question is whether the new governor, attorney general and Legislature are ready to jump back into the debate or just let the sheriffs pick up the pieces. Reporters Jason Pohl of the Sacramento Bee and Ryan Gabrielson of ProPublica will be investigating that question over the coming months; sign up for the Overcorrection newsletter for updates.
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People of color are overrepresented in prisons and jails See also our detailed graphs about Whites , Hispanics , and Blacks in California prisons and jails. California's criminal justice system is more than just its prisons and jails Our other articles about California How much do incarcerated people in California earn for their work in prison?
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