Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Are criminal justice changes making California safer?

Inmates wait in the Roger Bauman intake facility at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove, California on March 01, 2012 .
Inmates wait in the Roger Bauman intake facility at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove, California on March 01, 2012 .

It has been a momentous decade for California crime-and-punishment.

Once defined by tough sentencing laws and other strict policies that stuffed prisons to the point the feds intervened, the state has been moving steadily in the opposite direction. Many of those changes have emanated from the voters.

They eased third-strike penalties in 2012 by passing Proposition 36, and the number of inmates incarcerated for a third offense has plummeted. In 2014, they agreed to downgrade drug possession and lower-level crimes like theft from felonies to misdemeanors in authorizing Proposition 47. This year, they chose to legalize recreational marijuana via Proposition 64 and to clear the way for more offenders to win parole through Proposition 57, vindicating Gov. Jerry Brown and his quest to back off the kind of rigid sentencing he once supported.

So, has it worked? There’s been mixed evidence so far about the effects of Proposition 47 on public safety and state spending, and law enforcement critics have warned of curtailed DNA collection and difficulty in changing the behavior of repeat offenders. It’s too early to know about Proposition 57, which like Proposition 47 was assailed by prosecutors and some victim’s advocates.

Policy experts and lawmakers will gather today to discuss what we’ve learned so far. Expected participants include Senators Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, and John Moorlach, D-Costa Mesa, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Scott Kernan, various Orange County law enforcement officials and representatives of the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Public Policy Institute of California. From 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the University of California, Irvine.

BY THE NUMBERS: $62.7 million was the Brown administration’s estimate of Proposition 47 savings for 2015-2016, according to the LAO.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Conjoined twins from Antelope went through perilous, life-changing surgery.

IN DIESEL: The $14.7 billion settlement with Volkswagen over the automaker’s emissions chicanery doesn’t just go to buy back cars, though much of it is for that. It also means big bucks for California environmental programs, as the state is reaping more than $1 billion for the state to use on clean air initiatives. Today the California Air Resources Board will discuss putting an $800 million windfall toward programs like promoting zero-emission vehicle use. ARB members will be discussing the matter starting at 9 a.m. at 1001 I Street.

BE COUNTED: Here’s an update on those Nov. 8 election results, which still aren’t complete: Today is the final day for counties to finish canvassing. It will still be a while before the California Secretary of State’s office compiles it all and releases their final results, but it’s another step on the slow march to fully counting the outcome.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert