Release Date: February 13, 2024
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has released a new report on recidivism rates for prisoners released in Fiscal Year 2018-2019, and the accompanying press release misleadingly claims that the data show that Proposition 57 is a cause of reduced recidivism. The report itself does not claim a cause-and-effect relationship. No such inference is warranted from the data, according to the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (CJLF).

Of the prisoners released in FY2018-19, 41.9% were convicted of new crimes within three years of release, a 2.7% decrease from the previous cohort. About two-thirds of the prisoners, 66.7%, were arrested for new crimes in the same period, a smaller 1.7% decrease. The report notes that the COVID-19 pandemic “is a key factor” in these changes. The pandemic affected crime rates as more people stayed home. It also impacted the ability of the justice system to respond to crime. Court closures are likely an important factor in the reconviction rate dropping further than the rearrest rate.

Yet CDCR’s press release asserts that this is “the second year of data showing the effects of the passage of Proposition 57,” claiming a cause-and-effect relationship. No such causal inference is justified merely from the fact that a small decline followed the implementation of Proposition 57, according to CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger. That is particularly true when another major change in the same time period, the pandemic, is likely a major factor.

The press release also notes that prisoners who participated in rehabilitation activities had lower recidivism rates. “This tells us nothing about whether CDCR’s increased credits for violent felons under Proposition 57 caused the difference,” said Scheidegger. “The prisoners who participated were likely better candidates to go straight to begin with, and CDCR has provided no data to demonstrate that the increased credits were necessary for their participation,” he added.

With two-thirds of released criminals arrested for new crimes, early release from increased credits certainly means many additional crimes are being committed. A very small drop in the rearrest rate could not make up for that increase, regardless of what caused it. “On the whole, the data indicate that CDCR’s increased credits under Proposition 57 have increased crime rather than decreased it,” said Scheidegger.

CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.