Violent crime is up, arrests are down, and California is closing prisons | Lashaun Turner | NewsBreak Original
Legislators are proposing more prison closures in order to offset future expected budget deficits.
Empty Jail Cell- Photo by Pexels.com
Governor Newsom plans to close a third correctional facility, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Riverside County. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) will be closing the prison and plans to terminate additional facilities within other prisons such as the women’s section at Folsom. These closures are expected to occur between 2023–2025.
The decision to close Chuckawalla was made at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s direction, alongside declining inmate numbers and budgetary reasons, as CDCR focuses on “fiscal responsibility” with its use of state prisons.(Source)
Prison population may be down, but it isn’t because crime is down
Attorney General (AG) Rob Bonta released annual crime data statistics that show violent crime is up. According to the AG report, from 2020–2021, violent crime rate increased 6.7 percent. Homicides increased by 9.1 percent; rapes increased by 8.6 percent. Additionally, property crime rate increased by 3.0 percent, and motor vehicle theft rate increased by 8.2 percent.
The AG report also stated the 2021 overall arrest rate was down 7.3 percent.
In January 2020, California state prisons held 33% more prisoners than they were designed to hold, at 122,000 people. By December, only 94,500 were incarcerated, a decrease of 27,500. (Source)
Prison population started to decrease dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic when low level and vulnerable inmates were released to thwart the spread of the virus. Also, sentencing reforms such as propositions 47 and 57 lowered penalties for nonviolent crimes.
Proposition 47 made some non-violent property crimes, where the value does not exceed $950, into misdemeanors. It also made some simple drug possession offenses into misdemeanors.
Proposition 57 allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons, changes policies on juvenile prosecution, and authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education. Leading to reduced prison time.
Reducing crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor when charged ensures an individual will not be sentenced to a California state prison. An offender guilty of a misdemeanor can only be held in a County Jail for maximum of one year.
A recent report claims that California is also releasing pedophiles after serving less than a year of their convictions.
A combination of factors including decriminalization of crime, shortened sentences, and lower arrest rates have led to de-population in the California state prison system. However, it is not proven that causation exists between a lower prison population and the surge in crime statistics.