U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Opportunities and Challenges Abound as Prison Populations Decrease

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2013
2 pages
Publication Series
This fact sheet reviews the main points of Joan Petersilia's address at the 2012 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Conference, in which she discussed the opportunities and challenges associated with the implementation of California's public safety realignment legislation.
She notes that this legislation has resulted in three major changes in California's corrections system. First, prison sentences have been changed. Low-level offenders no longer are sent to State prison. Most property offenders, auto thieves, domestic-violence perpetrators, drunk drivers, and drug offenders are managed by the counties. Second, parole policies and practices have been changed. Previously, all released offenders went on parole. Now, only the most serious and violent offenders are placed on parole. All other offenders go to county parole to be discharged in 6 months rather than the previous 12 months. In addition, parole violations result in imprisonment only if they involve a new offense. A third major change concerns county prison budget changes. Each county now receives half as much money as the State was spending to maintain a county's prisoners, and the counties are free to spend this money as they choose. Petersilia acknowledged that there are risks in this downsizing of prisons. She advocates an innovative approach that emphasizes the use of programs that have proven cost-effective by scientific evaluations. She also suggests a funding approach that recruits private investors that will cooperate with government and community organizations to launch and sustain cost-effective community corrections programs. 2 notes

Date Published: January 1, 2013