Capitol Alert

A California initiative tried to keep people out of jail. It's working, report says.

Proposition 47 — the 2014 ballot measure aimed at reducing penalties for certain nonviolent drug and property crimes — contributed to lower recidivism rates and did not lead to a rise in violent crime, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

The measure led to lower recidivism rates among lower-level offenders, reducing their re-arrest and re-conviction rates by 1.8 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. Mia Bird, a research fellow at PPIC, said Proposition 47 succeeded in its "intended effect of reducing incarceration numbers."

The PPIC report comes as victims' rights groups and law enforcement organizations are circulating initiative petitions to undo parts of Proposition 47. The measure could come before state voters in November.

Of the 12 California counties analyzed in the PPIC report, jail bookings declined by 8 percent a year after the measure passed, with larger declines for whites and Latinos than for African-Americans. The overall decline in jail bookings was driven by fewer bookings for Proposition 47 drug and property offenses.

Though California saw a 13 percent uptick in the violent crime rate from 2014 to 2016, the report concluded this trend was largely due to unrelated changes in crime reporting after the measure passed. The FBI in 2014 expanded the definition of sexual crimes that constitute rape. Also, the report noted, the Los Angeles Police Department under-reported its numbers on violent crimes, especially aggravated assaults, from 2005 to 2012. When excluding the Los Angeles under-reporting and the FBI's definitional change in rape, the 13 percent increase drops to a 4.7 percent increase.

There was some evidence Proposition 47 contributed to a 9 percent rise in larceny thefts, though, the report said. Motor vehicle thefts account for about three-fourths of the increase.

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