State report on prison realignment slammed by critics

State report on prison realignment slammed by critics »Play Video
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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — State prison officials say a study on the early impacts of so-called prison realignment show positive results. But critics point to negative data in the report, and Kern County prosecutors say it fails to analyze significant factors.

"One-year arrest rates are down and conviction rates are virtually static for offenders released after completing their state prison post-Realignment," reads a statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Realignment is the plan to shift more inmates out of the state prison into county jail systems instead.

"I do question the CDCR's numbers," Kern County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Pafford said. He sees several problems. He says the new study looks at a sample of data that's too small and too soon.

Realignment started in October 2011. The study released this week looks at 37,448 inmates who were released from prison during the first six months of the program, and it tracks them for the first year.

The state finds that of those inmates, fewer were arrested after realignment. The report shows an arrest rate of 58.7 percent after realignment, compared to 62 percent before. And the number of new crimes committed stayed about the same. Analysts found 22.5 percent were arrested for new crimes after realignment, 21.3 percent had been before.

Pafford is not impressed. "It was pretty static all around," Pafford told Eyewitness News on Friday. "I don't think there's any conclusions you can draw."

The prosecutor says in Kern County, there's been more crime since realignment. "Crime is clearly on the rise, and the only change in the criminal justice system during this time has been realignment," Pafford said.

His office has been tracking the number of felony cases filed. They compared the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2013. "County-wide we're seeing about a 40 percent increase in felony filings, and in metropolitan Bakersfield, about a 45 percent increase in felony filings," Pafford said. "So, that's a significant increase."

They can not tease out how many of those crimes were committed by someone affected by realignment.

But, Pafford complains the new state study looks at only part of the realignment impacts and inmates. The report tracked offenders who had completed their full sentence in state prison, and were then put into state prison parole supervision or county probation supervision.

Another group of inmates is also handled differently with realignment.

"It's people who would have gone to prison, but didn't go to prison, and this report doesn't address that group of individuals," Pafford said.
These are newly-convicted offenders who were convicted of a non-serious, non-violent, or non-sexual offenses. Pafford said they are now in county jail systems, and that's a very big impact.

The prosecutor said Kern County has tracked those inmates from October 2011 through this month. He said 2,797 inmates in these categories have been arrested. Of those, 1,842 were later released. And of those, 1,062 were then re-arrested.

Of the inmates the state did track, other critics also point to data in the CDCR report. "Post-Realignment offenders had slightly more arrests per person than pre-Realignment offenders," the report reads. "This was driven primarily by the subset of post-Realignment offenders who were arrested three times or more."

The study also found inmates were more likely to be arrested for a felony after realignment, compared to before the plan went into effect.

But the CDCR report says realignment is doing what it was designed to do: offenders returned to state prison at a "significantly" lower rate.

Prison officials say the intent of realignment is to "encourage counties to develop and implement evidence-based practices and alternatives to incarceration to limit future crimes and reduce victimization," as a CDCR release says.

But, Pafford says Kern County needs more of the state funds allotted to do that. "Kern County is 58th out of the 58 counties in the amount of money we receive per offender," he said. The prosecutor said local officials are working hard to convince Sacramento that Kern County needs more of this funding.

As for report that prison realignment is showing positive results, Pafford disagrees. "If you get to the ground floor in Kern County, it is not working," he says.