California criminal justice reform offers lesson for the nation

New York Times Photo

Over the last decade, the New York Times reports, California has been at the forefront of the nation’s efforts to reduce mass incarceration, in part because the state was forced by the courts to lower the population of severely overcrowded prisons. California, once a byword for get-tough-on-crime policies like its three-strikes law enacted in the 1990s, has let thousands of inmates out of prison or jail.

Overall crime rates, meanwhile, are at historic lows, with levels not seen since the 1960s, according to the Times article. Yet some categories of crimes, like theft, have ticked up, feeding into a narrative by opponents of criminal justice reform that California’s new measures have gone too far.

The article cites one of the first academic studies on the effects of California’s criminal justice reforms on crime rates, authored by Bradley J. Bartos and Charis E. Kubrin. Their study found no links between Proposition 47 — a ballot measure enacted in 2014 that reduced some drug crimes and thefts to misdemeanors — and violent crime. … “At the time I was hearing so many claims about what Prop 47 was doing to crime in the state,” Ms. Kubrin said. “Prop 47 has nothing to do with violent crime.”

Read the article.