How Justice Systems Realign in California: The Policies and Systemic Effects of Prison Downsizing, 1978-2013 (ICPSR 34939)

Principal Investigator(s): Petersilia, Joan, Stanford Law School; Weisberg, Robert, Stanford Law School

Summary:

These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they there received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except of the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompany readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collections and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

The California correctional system underwent a dramatic transformation under California's Public Safety Realignment Act (AB 109) in 2011, a law that shifted from the state to the counties the responsibility for monitoring, tracking, and incarcerating lower level offenders previously bound for state prison. Realignment, therefore, presents the opportunity to witness 58 natural experiments in the downsizing of prisons. Counties faced different types of offenders, implemented different programs in different community and jail environments, and adopted differing sanctioning policies. This study examines the California's Public Safety Realignment Act's effect on counties' criminal justice institutions, including the disparities that result in charging, sentencing, and resource decisions.

Access Notes

  • These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

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Study Description

Citation

Petersilia, Joan, and Robert Weisberg. How Justice Systems Realign in California: The Policies and Systemic Effects of Prison Downsizing, 1978-2013. ICPSR34939-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2017-03-30. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34939.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34939.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2012-IJ-CX-0002)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    budgets, correctional facilities, correctional guards, correctional officers, correctional system, corrections management, court system, courts, crime statistics, criminal courts, criminal justice policy, criminal justice system, district attorneys, economic conditions, expenditures, jail inmates, jails, judges, judicial decision making, judicial decisions, law enforcement, law enforcement agencies, nonviolent crime, offenders, offenders sentencing, parole, parole hearings, police, police departments, police social services, police training, political affiliation, political expectations, prison administration, prison construction, prison inmates, sentencing, sentencing guidelines, social expenditures, social services, voter preferences

Smallest Geographic Unit:    County

Geographic Coverage:    California, United States

Time Period:   

  • 1978--2012 (Follow the Money: How California Counties Are Spending Their Public Safety Realignment Funds Data)
  • 2013-03--2013-07 (Assessing Judicial Sentencing Preferences after Public Safety Realignment: A Survey of California Judges Data)
  • 2012--2013 (Voices from the Field: How California Stakeholders View Public Safety Realignment Data)

Date of Collection:   

  • 2012--2013 (Follow the Money: How California Counties Are Spending Their Public Safety Realignment Funds Data)
  • 2012-03--2013-07 (Assessing Judicial Sentencing Preferences after Public Safety Realignment: A Survey of California Judges Data)
  • 2012-11--2013-08 (Voices from the Field: How California Stakeholders View Public Safety Realignment Data)

Unit of Observation:    Individuals, County

Universe:   

California counties.

Police, sheriffs, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation and parole agents, victim advocates, offenders, and social service representatives in the criminal justice institutions in California.

Data Type(s):    administrative records data, aggregate data, census/enumeration data, survey data

Data Collection Notes:

These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

Please note that the qualitative data of the interviews with police, sheriffs, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation and parole agents, victim advocates, offenders and social service representatives, and the survey of judges are not available under NACJD's Fast Track Release.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   

This study analyzed the extent to which California's move to downsize state prisons through Public Safety Realignment legislation has changed the decision making and resource allocation of the primary actors in the criminal justice system through the following three projects:

  1. Follow the Money: How California Counties Are Spending Their Public Safety Realignment Funds. To see how California's 58 counties took to implementing realignment, this project collected data and analyzed counties' first year of the realignment spending plans in the context of the distinct demographics, political dynamics, criminal justice, and social service cultures of particular counties.
  2. Voices from the Field: How California Stakeholders View Public Safety Realignment. This project interviewed over 125 criminal justice practitioners (prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, sheriffs, probation chiefs, parole agents, victim services representatives) across 21 counties to determine how realignment had influenced their agency's work and what changes they would make to the law.
  3. Assessing Judicial Sentencing Preferences after Public Safety Realignment: A Survey of California Judges. Judges across California were surveyed, using hypothetical vignettes as to how their sentencing decisions have changed post-realignment in an effort to capture whether and what kind of variance had resulted.

Study Design:   

Follow the Money: How California Counties Are Spending Their Public Safety Realignment Funds.

Using each county's 2011-2012 AB 109 Community Corrections Partnership plan and budget, the project qualitatively and quantitatively categorized the plans and budgets. The 58 counties' plans were coded into the following topics: process/attitude, alternatives to incarceration, risk assessment, reentry and rehabilitation, probation, jails, law enforcement, measurement of outcomes and data collection, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, and housing. The 58 counties' budget plans were quantitatively coded into the following two key spending units:

  • Sheriff and Law Enforcement: comprised of budget subcategories covering sheriff and municipal law enforcement.
  • Programs and Services: comprised of budget subcategories covering offender housing, programs and services, health services, and workforce development.

This qualitative and quantitative coding of the county spending plans and budgets was used to create an overall "control orientation index" indicating each county's relative position on a spectrum, with those that emphasize surveillance and custody in their AB 109 spending plans on one end, and those that emphasize programs and services on the other.

To see which counties' spending plans match previous control orientations and which reflect a shift, each county was rated low, medium or high on the following measures:

  • Percent of arrested felons convicted, 2009.
  • Percent of arrested felons incarcerated (prison, jail, or split sentence), 2009.
  • Percent of convicted felons incarcerated (prison, jail, or split sentence), 2009.
  • Imprisonments for violent offenses per 1,000 violent felony arrests, 2010.
  • Imprisonments for property offenses per 1,000 property felony arrests, 2010.
  • Imprisonments for drug offenses per 1,000 drug felony arrests, 2010.

Using these measures each county was assigned an overall low, medium, or high pre-realignment control orientation rating.

To explain county spending, the following three hypothesis were tested.

First hypothesis tested was the political factors of pluralism and racial threat determining control orientation. The following data was complied to characterize the local political environment and racial threat in each county:

  • The percentage of voters registered as Republicans or Democrats.
  • The political parties of the current Sheriff and District Attorney, and the percentage of the votes they received in the last election.
  • Expenditures for sheriff, 2000-2009.
  • Operational expenditures for the District Attorney's Office, 2010.
  • Voting outcomes on all state ballot propositions relating to criminal justice issues between 1978 and 2010 to create county-level indices of public preferences for criminal justice approaches that generally favor treatment or control.
  • Demographic breakdowns of county residents, including percent black race and percent Hispanic ethnicity.
  • The unemployment rate in each county, broken down by race and ethnicity.
  • The percent of persons living below poverty in each county, broken down by race and ethnicity.

The second hypothesis tested was economics resources and competition determining control orientation, where localities must make social and economic environments attractive to the needs of businesses. Thus, it was expected that treatment and service spending would be suppressed by economic hardship. To test these economics spending hypothesis, data was compiled on the fiscal/economics health of California counties.

  • Standard and Poor's credit rating and outlook for each county.
  • Annual county revenues and expenditures, 2000-2010.
  • Amount of long-term debt in each county, 2000-2010.
  • Expenditures for police, sheriff, all law enforcement, all custody and supervision, 2000-9.
  • Operational expenditures for detention, juvenile detention, probation, the District Attorney's office, public defenders, and trial courts in each county, 2010.
  • Operational expenditures for detention, juvenile detention, probation, the District Attorney's office, public defenders, and trial courts in each county, 2010.
  • Spending on drug abuse services, medical care, mental health, and public health, 2010.
  • Number of county psychiatric, rehabilitative, and hospital beds, 2010.

The third hypothesis tested was local needs, such as crime rates and offender population determining control orientation. Local needs theory states officials will do what they think is best to suppress crime and to maintain the capacity of local justice institutions to deal with crime and offender populations. Thus, counties with strained justice institutions will use funds to shore up those institutions, especially if the crime rate is high. To test this hypothesis the following data on county level crime conditions and capacity of local justice institutions were complied.

  • Annual arrest data, 2001-2010, by county, by year, for various offense types.
  • Serious (Part I) crime rate per 100,000 residents, 2010.
  • Dispositions of all arrests, by county, in 2009.
  • Number of parole violators returned to custody in 2000-2009.
  • Number of new felon admissions to prison in 2000-2009.
  • Number of released parolees classified as "high risk," 2006-2009.
  • Number of mentally ill parolees in each county in 2012.
  • Recidivism statistics for the cohort of parolees released from prison between 2006 and 2009, by county.
  • Number of criminal justice personnel in each county, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, broken down by police, sheriff, custody/supervision, and other personnel.
  • Average daily jail population, 2011. Jail rates per 1,000 felony arrests with demographic breakdowns. Jailed population as a percentage of capacity.
  • Imprisonment rates per 1,000 felony arrests with demographic and charge breakdowns, 2010.
  • Annual costs of imprisonment, 2010.

Voices from the Field: How California Stakeholders View Public Safety Realignment.

The main goal of this project was to learn how realignment is taking shape and was being implemented at the county level. To achieve this county decision-makers were asked directly about their experience in implementing the realignment. The selected counties for the interviews were those that differed in their pre- and post-realignment orientation to the use of state prison. To determine this two sources of data were used, official felony case processing information for the pre-AB 109 measures, and an analysis of the county approved realignment spending plans. Within each selected county, interviews were requested with all of the members of the Community Corrections Partnerships (CCP). The questioned asked were organized around the following four broad themes:

  • What is happening? (Documenting)
  • Is it what was expected or desired? (Assessing)
  • Why is it happening as it is? (Explaining)
  • How may legislation, program processes, and/or systems be improved? (Recommending)

Assessing Judicial Sentencing Preferences after Public Safety Realignment: A Survey of California Judges.

This project aimed to examine how Superior Court judges' sentencing choices changed under realignment, in light of the overall jurisprudential principles they infer from AB 109 and the shift of burdens and responsibilities to the county. The specific research questions were as follows:

  • How often do judges choose an 1170(h) county jail sentence, as opposed to a traditional felony probation sentence? To what extent, and for what types of offenses and offenders, do judges still choose a tradition felony probation.
  • When judges do choose an 1170(h) sentence, how often do they "split" the sentence and under what circumstances? When judges choose a split sentence, what is the total length of the sentence and what fractions of jail and supervision time do they choose for various types of offenses and offenders?
  • For each of the prior questions, how uniform or how varied are the judges' choices

To answer these research questions a factorial survey design was used which presented four vignettes randomly containing five hypothetical cases out of seven possible. The on-line survey was administered to California Superior Court judges in the 58 counties with the help of California Judges Association.

Sample:   

Voices from the Field: How California Stakeholders View Public Safety Realignment.

Counties selected for interviews were ones that differed in their pre- and post-realignment orientation. The counties orientation was determined from official felony case processing information for the pre-AB 109 measures, and an analysis of the county approved realignment spending plans. Within each selected county, interviews were requested with all of the members of the Community Corrections Partnerships (CCP). In some cases, the CCP member referred to someone they felt was more knowledgeable concerning day-to-day realignment operations. In total 125 individuals from 12 counties were interviewed.

Assessing Judicial Sentencing Preferences after Public Safety Realignment: A Survey of California Judges.

The survey was distributed through the electronic newsletter of the California Judges Association (CJA) initially on March 12, 2013. A second distribution through mail to the 1,254 Superior Court judges was sent and in mid-April follow up phone calls were made. A second batch of surveys were mail out in May to 60 judges with follow up phone calls. In early July follow up calls were made to judges and other individuals with connections to judicial officers in 11 counties with the highest number of felony admissions. In total 112 judges from 35 counties were surveyed.

Time Method:    Cross-sectional , Time Series

Mode of Data Collection:    face-to-face interview, mail questionnaire, mixed mode, web-based survey

Data Source:

Please see the codebook for a complete list of data sources.

Description of Variables:   

Follow the Money: How California Counties Are Spending Their Public Safety Realignment Funds data consists of 1 Excel file with 16 worksheets.

County Plan Mentions worksheet covers: counties' plan process and attitude, alternative sanctions, risk assessment, rehabilitation and reentry, probation, jails, law enforcement, measurement outcomes and data collection, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, physical healthcare, and specialized housing.

County Plan Depth worksheet covers: alternative sanctions, risk assessment, rehabilitation and reentry, probation, jails, law enforcement, measures of outcomes and data collection, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, physical healthcare, and specialized housing.

Scores worksheet covers: program/services mentions, law enforcement/surveillance mentions, law enforcement helping with PRCS, building/expanding/reopening jail space, high risk probation units, arming probation, hiring law enforcement, providing transitional housing, mental health depth, substance abuse, specialty court, education depth, and total score.

County Allocations worksheet covers: total expenditures; sheriff/law enforcement spending; sheriff and law enforcement spending as percentage of budget; housing program and services, behavioral health, health services, and workforce development programs expenditure; housing program and services, behavioral health, health services, and workforce development programs spending as percentage of budget; scores for sheriff/law enforcement and program/service orientation; probation spending; reserves; reserves as percentage of budget; intensive supervision/alternative detention spending; intensive supervision/alternative detention spending as percentage of budget; miscellaneous spending; and miscellaneous spending as percentage of budget.

Disposition of Adult Felony Arrests by Type of Final Law Enforcement, Prosecutorial, and Court Disposition, 2009 worksheet covers: counties' number of and percentage of total adult felons, law enforcement releases, total complaints denied, single complaints, petition to revoke probation, combined cases, total court dispositions, dismissed court dispositions, diversions dismissed court dispositions, total convicted, death sentences, prison sentences, youth authority sentences, probation, probation with jail sentences, jail sentence/fine, civil addict sentences, and other sentences.

Political Index worksheet covers: counties' district attorney's name and percentage of vote gathered in the most recent election, and sheriff/coroner/public administrator's name and percentage of vote gathered in the most recent election.

Political Criminal Justice Voting worksheet covers: counties' votes for yes/no, percentage of votes for yes/no, and score rating for yes/no votes for 14 law enforcement related propositions from 1978 to 2010.

County Characteristics worksheet covers: 2010 census data, county financial stability, political variables, 2010 expenditures, individuals in hospital, county jail population and capacity, pre-realignment, october 2010 to september 2011, and jail average daily population, 2011.

Criminal Justice System Funding worksheet covers: counties' calculated police expenditures for each year 2000 to 2007, calculated sheriff expenditures for each year 2000 to 2007, calculated probation expenditures for each year 2000 to 2008, calculated jail expenditures for each year 2002 to 2009, police department expenditure for fiscal year 2007/2008, sheriff department expenditure for fiscal year 2007/2008, total law enforcement expenditure for fiscal year 2007/2008, total custody/supervision expenditure for fiscal year 2007/2008, operational expenditures on adult detention in 2010, operational expenditures on juvenile detention in 2010, operational expenditures on probation in 2010, operational expenditures on total detention and correction in 2010, operational expenditures on district attorney in 2010, operational expenditures on other trial courts in 2010, and operational expenditures on public defenders in 2010.

Mental Health worksheet covers: counties' current total enhanced outpatient program (EOP) parolees, EOP parole pre-release 120 day projection, risk of recidivism for parolees, and number of prisoners.

Criminal Justice Personnel worksheet covers: counties' total full time law enforcement personnel, total full time police department personnel, total full time sheriff's department personnel, total full time other law enforcement personnel, total full time custody/supervision personnel, population estimates, and officers per capita for 2004, 2005, 2009, and 2010. Also, variables on raw and percentage change in officers from 2004 to 2009 and raw and percentage change in officers from 2005 to 2010.

Arrest Type Breakdown 2001-2010 worksheet contains: counties' total arrest counts in each year from 2001 to 2010 for adult felony, violent offenses, homicide, forcible rape, robbery, assault, kidnapping, property offenses, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, forgery/checks/access cards, arson, drug offenses, narcotics, marijuana, dangerous drugs, other drugs, sex offenses, lewd or lascivious, other sex offenses, other offenses, weapons ,driving under the influence, hit-and-run, escape, bookmaking, and other.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Recidivism worksheet covers: counties' number offenders released between 2006 and 2009, age and summary statistics of offenders released, percentage of offenders released within each ethnicity, sex of offender in percent, percentage of offenders with mental health issues assigned a mental health identifier that designates their treatment and housing/placement situation, percentage of registered sex offenders, offender risk level based on California Static Risk Assessment (CSRA), percentage of whether an individual has a criminal history, total number and summary statistics of days incarcerated before release, for each prison facility the percentage of offenders that has spent the last 30 days there, total number and summary statistics for returns to custody for parole violations, total stays and summary statistics of an inmate housed in a CDCR institution, percentage of offenders for each type of offense category, percentage of offenders who's status is new admission/parole violator returned with a new term/parole violator returned to custody, percentage of offenders who's primary offense category for return is against person/property crime/drug/other crime, and percentage of offenders who return to prison as a percentage of all individual who return to prison for one year, two years, three years after release or not rearrested.

Political Maps worksheet contains eleven maps, three scatter plots, and one table. The maps are of county median general voter preferences index, county consensus variation on criminal justice issues, county voter turnout on criminal justice issues, tough-on-crime index by county, new prison commitments, contested elections for district attorney, new felony admissions per population distribution by county, median general voter preferences index by county, tough-on-crime punitiveness scale by county, average voter turnout as a percentage of county population, and average voter consensus. the scatter plots are of plot of 2011 crime on new felony admissions with fitted regression line, 2009 new felon admission on 2009 juvenile crime rate, and plot of first-differenced juvenile crime on 2009 admissions. The table shows the correlation matrix of political variables.

David Ball Data 2000-2009 worksheet covers: counties' total prison population, total admissions to prison, new felon admissions, parole violators with new terms, and percentage of felon admissions to total admissions for years 2000 to 2009.

Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice Data 2010 worksheet covers: state imprisonment rates; state average new felon admissions; county imprisonment rates; imprisonment costs; male and female felony arrests and imprisonment rates; imprisonment rates for violent offense, property offense, and drug offense; change in imprisonment rates; new felon admissions by race; percentage of jail population not sentenced; county jail population per 100,000 adult population; men and women jailed per 100,000 adult population; and crime and arrest rates per crime category.

Response Rates:    Assessing Judicial Sentencing Preferences after Public Safety Realignment: A Survey of California Judges data: 8.9% of judges from 68% of California counties.

Presence of Common Scales:    Please see the codebook for details on the scales used.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:   2017-03-30

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