An Assessment of the Implementation of AB 109 and Prison Realignment in California

Authors: Alexander Becker, Nathan Damoradan, Kelley Groves, Xiangyi Jing, and Kele Song


Abstract: Due to the detrimental effects of California state prisons on the health and safety of inmates, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a judicial implementation order to reduce the California state prison population to 137.5% of design capacity by June 27, 2013. The enactment of AB 109 and AB 117 together focus on the transfer of responsibility of non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenders (N3) to California county jails. Although these realignment policies have resulted in a decrease of the state prison population, it is still at 167% of design capacity with the target date delayed to June 30, 2014. Realignment allows flexibility for counties to handle post-release supervision of N3 offenders, sentencing new prisoners, and choices between incarceration and alternatives. Limited funding allocations have also required counties to pursue lower cost alternatives to incarceration. To understand how this policy has been implemented at the local level, we study the various strategies used with a four county comparison by interviewing county officials and program leaders and by reviewing the effects of prison realignment.

The research found that while AB 109 has lowered state prison populations, the burden of overcrowding has been shifted to the county level. As a result, the safety and healthcare concerns that were previously evident in state prisons are now being seen in county jails. In an effort to counter this trend and help AB 109 be most effective, it is recommended that California: 1) incentivizes faster trials; 2) adjusts arrest and sentencing practices; 3) establishes centralized, statutory sharing of county best practices; 4) increases the use of programs that reduce recidivism; 5) provides transitional services to all inmates; and 6) ensure adequate staffing in county jails.

Note: This study was performed was performed May 2013. Although the current state prison status has been updated (Feb 19, 2014), county level research is still based on interviews and literary research conducted at the original date of the study.

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