CSU, Chico News

Research Links Prison Realignment Laws to Increased Jail Violence

Date: 11-04-2014

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs
Jon Caudill, Coordinator
Criminal Justice Program

A new study led by a team of California State University, Chico researchers has found that jail violence in California has increased significantly since passage of the state’s 2011 Realignment Legislation Addressing Public Safety (AB 109).

In its third year, AB 109 was designed to reduce prison population by making low-level felony offenders ineligible for state incarceration, effectively diverting them to county jails to serve the remainder of their sentences. It also diverted those already in state prison from state to county-level community supervision once paroled and allowed convicted felons to await sentencing while on parole.

The study, conducted by Jon Caudill, Ryan Patten, Matthew O. Thomas and Sally Anderson of the political science department and University of North Texas professor Chad Trulson and University of Texas at Dallas professor James Marquart, looked at data from California county jails from 2006 to 2013. The researchers found that after reaching a low in the fourth quarter of 2010, inmate-on-staff assaults generally increased from 2011 to the third quarter of 2013, suggesting a link between AB 109 and jail violence.

Their findings were published in the November-December 2014 issue of the Journal of Criminal Justice.

“Our findings suggest that the criminal justice system is interconnected,” said Caudill, who led the study. “We’ve seen some fluctuations in the incarceration rates in jails, suggesting a decrease in jail utility: They can’t incarcerate all the people they feel they need to. This might help to explain an increase in crime in our communities and may help explain an increase in arrests prior to sentencing found by the Public Policy Institute of California.”

The study also found a decrease in local jail utility since 2011 when the realignment laws took effect, suggesting that fewer suspected and convicted criminals were held in county jails.

“One of the reasons we think we’ve seen a decrease in local jail utility is that now they’re having to house more sophisticated offenders for longer periods of time,” Caudill said. “The takeaway is we might not have a taste for incarcerating all these people, but we have to acknowledge that if we go down that path, we may have more crimes being committed in our communities.”

The article’s authors are part of the CSU, Chico Consortium for Public Safety Research. In addition to bringing expert consultation to criminal justice issues in the community, the consortium is focused on providing CSU, Chico students with experiential learning opportunities. Students have participated in earlier faculty-led studies of California’s criminal justice system, and this most recent research may be used by the consortium to research the efficacy of potential policies aimed at reducing jail violence.

The study (PDF) is titled “Correctional Destabilization and Jail Violence: The Consequences of Prison Depopulation Legislation.”

Learn more about CSU, Chico’s Department of Political Science at www.csuchico.edu/pols/.