As stated in a recent Bill Otis’s post on Wednesday, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) recently released a report that examines 10-year recidivism patterns of prisoners released in 2008 from 24 states. The study has a lengthy follow-up period of ten years, which is useful in tracking recidivism rates over time. A similar report was released on the topic in July 2021 that included data from 34 states, but the follow-up period was only five years (2012-2017). Similarly, BJS also released a report in May 2018 that examined recidivism rates of offenders from 30 states with a nine-year follow-up period. Extending the follow-up period allows researchers to examine recidivism patterns over longer periods of time, which is one of the main benefits of the current study.
In a court filing today (August 18), two victims’ groups, Crime Victims United and Citizens Against Homicide, joined a lawsuit by district attorneys to block new regulations announced on May 1 by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) making 76,000 inmates eligible for early release. A video of the press conference is here. The new regulations would allow the early release of criminals convicted of both violent and non-violent crimes, including murderers and sex offenders. Inmates that prison officials determine have behaved well or participated in rehabilitation programs would be eligible for release after serving one-half of their sentences.
In May, the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation put into effect regulations that greatly increased the credits that violent criminals can earn to shorten their sentences. Sam Stanton of the Sacramento Bee has this article on a lawsuit by 45 district attorneys (out of 58 in the state) to invalidate these regulations.
I will have more to say about this suit later, but right now I want to focus on a statement by a supporter of the regulations that illustrates the kind of pseudoscientific posturing that is rampant in policy debates today. Continue reading . . .
One of the most unfortunate features of the national discussion about criminal justice is that the vocabulary in which it’s conducted has been hijacked and tortured beyond recognition by the “reform” forces. How many of their articles start out by blasting the United States as “incarceration nation” and then go on to heap yet more scorn on America, the “carcereal state”? You can’t look through “reform” literature for five minutes without getting beaten over the head with this stuff.
Only one problem. It’s bunk.
Katy Grimes from The California Globe has this story covering Newsom’s announcement on May 28th, “[He} granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves – for murderers, bank robbers, armed robbers, kidnappers, killers for hire, drivers of get-away-cars for murderers, and assaulters with firearms.” Yet again we are looking at the release of criminals who have been convicted of heinous, violent crimes that would lead any reasonable person to believe pose a threat to the safety and security of the community in which they are released into.
In San Francisco fear has become part of life for many of its residents. According to this article by Kenny Choi of CBS San Francisco:
Residents in San Francisco say they don’t feel safe amid an alarming rise in the number of burglaries across the city. Residents say the initial response form San Francisco police went nowhere. So after someone broke into her complex in the middle of the night, [Iryna] Gorb started sleuthing, obsessively collecting evidence on her own from neighbors’ cameras.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, joined by 40 other elected DAs, submitted this petition to the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to, “…repeal the temporary emergency regulations contained in the Minimum Security Credit and Inmate Credit Earning rule making action filed with the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) on April 8, 2021.” The regulations give 76,000 criminals in state prisons eligibility for early release.
The Sacramento Bee has this story on Alberto Quiroz, who was sentenced to ten years in state prison for the events in the 2017 death of CHP Officer Lucas Chellew who died as a result of injuries sustained in a high-speed chase with Quiroz through South Sacramento. Quiroz had 5 previous failures to appear on unrelated charges and previous cases. He was arrested on May 5th for assaulting one of his family members with a semi-automatic weapon. So the question is, why was he released less than three and a half years into this sentence?? Below is the answer offered by corrections spokeswoman, Dana Simas.
In response to increasing concerns about jail and prison overcrowding, many officials across the U.S. have undertaken different efforts aimed at reducing the prison population, including Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón. In December 2020, Gascón introduced a policy to eliminate all prison sentence enhancements, thereby sharply reducing sentence lengths for offenders committing crimes with aggravating factors such as causing great bodily injury or use of a deadly weapon. In Special Directive 20-08, the new DA claimed that research and data show that longer sentence lengths are more likely to increase recidivism relative to shorter sentences.
While the directive cites one unpublished study in support of the finding, it is unclear whether this finding holds when considering the wider body of research on the topic. Namely, research findings can vary quite a bit across studies, so we argue that a critical examination of the research literature is warranted. When considering the research on the relationship between incarceration and recidivism, many studies compare custodial with non-custodial sentences, and fewer examine the impact of varying incarceration lengths on recidivism. Considering that everyone subject to a possible sentence enhancement will be serving some type of custodial sentence, the latter is more relevant concerning Gascón’s recent policy change. To assess the claims mentioned in Special Directive 20-08, my colleague Kent Scheidegger and I conducted a detailed review of the research on this topic.
UPDATE: The full-length version of this paper has been posted through the Social Science Research Network.