Proposition 57 and Public Safety

Abstract Proposition 57: Implementation and Perception By Janette Darbinyan Master of Public Administration in Public Sector Management and Leadership After decades of harsh crime policy (including being a test state for the Three Strikes approach to felony sentencing), the California electorate reconsidered crime policy by passing. Proposition 57. This initiative aimed to reduce the scale of the prison pipeline with reforms to juvenile justice, parole consideration for nonviolent felons, and sentence credits for various forms of good and rehabilitative behavior. Public debate over such initiatives includes concerns over public safety. There were essentially two concerns. First: Is it possible to parole a large number of prisoners within a relatively short time period? Perhaps increasing the net number of parolees increases the risks to public safety, and perhaps it does not. Second: If prisons are criminogenic, is more lenient parole actually an effective response? It could be that the damage is already done. The research is complex, but it does generally show that parole can be highly effective, that reducing prison populations allows the remaining population to be better served, and that a reduced population improves the chances of rehabilitation, especially for non violent offenders best served by parole. Still, it is true that non-violent offenders can become more serious criminals, whether violent or not, as a result of what is effectively criminal occupational training and social networking in prison as well as the result of challenges in transitioning to the civilian environment. Accommodating reforms like Proposition 57 will need to include job training and placement elements, protections for parolees (such as California's law that marijuana-related convictions need not be reported) that will allow them to get work, and so forth. Still, parole policy certainly impacts public safety to some degree, and Proposition 57 can be analyzed on its own merits in this regard. Recommendations are made from the literature and areas for future research are both offered.