Another round of the debate over crime and punishment is opening in California, where lawmakers and voters in recent years have added some elements of leniency to a justice system that has long been one of the nation’s most punitive.
A new study and a proposed ballot measure gave conflicting grades this week to the wave of changes in state law. Those changes included the 2011 “realignment” that re-sentenced low-level felons to county jail instead of state prison and ballot measures that shortened some “three strikes” sentences for repeat felons in 2012, reclassified some theft and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors in 2014, and gave some long-serving prisoners a chance for early parole in 2016.
A report released Monday by Californians for Safety and Justice, which generally supports the recent actions, found little change in statewide crime rates from 2010 to 2016 — a drop of about 3 percent in property crimes, compared to population, and an increase of less than 1 percent in violent crimes.
Overall, the sponsoring group said, the figures refute predictions by prosecutors and police groups that shorter sentences would trigger an avalanche of crimes.