By B. Wayne Hughes Jr.
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report,“California’s Historic Corrections Reforms,” reveals that recent historic correctional reforms have reduced incarceration levels of low-level offenders without broadly increasing crime rates. That was a goal of Proposition 47 and we now see evidence that the goal is being achieved.
Every Californian has a fundamental right to be safe and secure in their neighborhood, and that begins by ensuring we have a correctional system and policy that truly holds the most dangerous offenders accountable and behind bars.
I am encouraged by the findings of this report, which reflect that a responsible policy of releasing low-level, non-violent offenders has not resulted in a broad-based increase in crime across the Golden State. We owe it to our children, seniors and all of our communities to protect them from those individuals who have committed the most heinous, violent crimes – but that remains impossible if our institutions are filled to overcapacity with the likes of those who have written bad checks.
Make no mistake – every criminal must answer for their crime, no matter the size – but we are only endangering ourselves if we aren’t doing what’s right both inside and outside of our prisons.
This report shows that recent correctional reforms – realignment, voter-approved Proposition 47, and related legislation – have taken important steps toward lowering incarceration levels while keeping the crime rate from going up. PPIC rightly acknowledges that it is still too early in the implementation stages of these policies to understand benefits or impacts, so it would be ill-advised for anyone to cast aspersions or empty rhetoric without having cold, hard, complete facts.
While this data is encouraging, I realize that effective, sustainable correctional policy does not begin or end with one law, ballot measure or vote. There’s still much work to be done to lower the recidivism rate, hold offenders more accountable, and ensure that prison rehabilitation programs are having the impact they should. I look forward to continuing my discussions with public safety, crime victims, administration and community leaders to build upon our efforts and make sure Californians benefit from the safest, most reliable correctional system for generations to come.
Wayne Hughes, Jr., California businessman and philanthropist, is the founder and chairman of the board of Serving California, a foundation that helps ex-offenders, crime victims and veterans diagnosed with PTSD and other disorders. Learn more at www.bwaynehughesjr.com @BWayneHughesJ