A Stanford Law School study recently published reports that inmates released under Prop. 47 are not causing the crime spike seen in cities all over California. Keep in mind that this advocacy project helped draft the initiative so it is hardly an unbiased source. The Stanford report points to a recidivism rate of 5 percent among those released under the new law – far below the state’s typical 42-percent rate.
Effects of Prop 47 Downgrading Offenses to Misdemeanors
The 5% recidivism rate is based only on new convictions that result in returns to state prison. However, since Prop 47 downgrades many offenses to misdemeanors, the prisoners released under the new law can commit the same offenses they were originally jailed for, yet not show up on the recidivism radar since they will not be sent to state prison.
Moreover, county jails do not report recidivism rates at all, as the report points out, yet that is exactly where the released prisoners who commit additional crime will most likely end up.
Rise in Violent Crime – Disingenuous Argument
Claiming a miracle 5% recidivism rate as “evidence of success” is very misleading. There wasn’t some miraculous fall in the recidivism rate from 42% to 5%; instead, there was a miraculous new way of compiling the statistics, analogous to the way unemployment figures were manipulated. You know, once a person ran out of unemployment benefits he was somehow no longer counted as unemployed.
It is also interesting to note the “dilution effect” Prop 47 advocates employ when using statewide crime figures to imply crime rates have not been affected by the measure. Sure, taken as a whole, the state crime rate has shown no real increase.
But that argument is disingenuous. The majority of released inmates was in Los Angeles, and mostly released this past December, January, February, and March. Correspondingly, after 12 straight years of declining crime in Los Angeles, the city experienced–in the first half of 2015–a nearly 21% rise in violent crime alone.
The crime increase, diluted into the state as a whole, is not significantly measurable. But measured at the point of concentration, well, the facts speak for themselves.