Public safety realignment: A very early report card

150 150 Ed Coghlan

Realignment strives to keep more cells empty like these at Alcatraz (photo: derekskey/Flickr)

The Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC) have issued their first report on Public Safety Realignment for the first six months of the program ending June 30, 2012. Statistics from all 58 counties have been included in the report. You can also read the AP’s story on it right here.

At California Forward, we applaud CPOC for taking the lead in reporting these early data on realignment. 

Why, you might ask, should Californians care about realignment? 

At Californian Forward, we are talking to residents of the state often and they say government spending and public safety are two of their biggest concerns. It makes sense. Criminal Justice in California is one of our largest expenditures of public funds. And yet, the money we are spending doesn’t appear to be working very well because nearly three out of four offenders released from prison are back in jail within a year. 

Realignment is about trying something different, trying to get the best the results at the best price. 

But here’s the problem. 

We want to see results instantly. That just doesn’t happen. If an offender stays out of trouble for a week, that doesn’t tell us much of anything. But if he or she stays out of trouble for three years, that’s real progress. It argues that we have to be patient to see if these new ideas and programs are going to work. 

The impatience persists, however. Many Californians, including elected officials, are worried about public safety. And their instincts are that we shouldn’t put ourselves and our loved ones at risk by having dangerous people walking the streets. Of course, we agree. 

Realignment is smarter than that, however, and the elected officials need to be smarter, too. They need to pay attention to the data. The data are telling them that in the early stages of realignment, progress may, and we emphasize, may be underway. 

Parole violations are down 47 percent, new felons are down 39 percent, property and drug offenders are down 60 percent each. 

Six months after realignment was implemented, 38,000 offenders who would have been the responsibility of the state prior to AB 109 being passed were instead being supervised and housed by local county probation and sheriff departments. 

Is it too early to claim victory?


But it’s not too early to say that we might have something going that can ultimately reduce the amount of money that California spends on prisons, which we all agree can be used better in other areas, like education and job development, or as some might say, not spend it at all. 

At California Forward, we are committed, through our Partnership for Community Excellence, to work with the various agencies and individuals who are trying to make a difference in public safety. We believe the Partnership can provide the “hub” for central exchange of information and to assist counties in implementing realignment.

Fewer people in state prisons, fewer people going back to state prison and more people living a productive life in California is a goal worth pursuing.

We are glad to be part of the effort. 


Ed Coghlan

All stories by: Ed Coghlan