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California Arrest Rates Drop 20% in Wake of Criminal Justice Reform

October 1, 2019

Despite some opposition to reform, the changes have led to lower overall arrest rates

California Arrest Rates Drop 20% in Wake of Criminal Justice Reform

Over the past few years, California has undergone significant criminal justice reforms. After being known for decades as a “tough on crime” state — and having overcrowded prisons to match this reputation — California has started to realize that our laws were often unnecessarily punitive. This brought about a wave of reforms, to our bail system, our sentencing, and more.

Many groups and people within California have argued that reforming criminal justice laws and becoming less “tough on crime” would make our state a haven for criminal behavior. A new study by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows that this has not happened. In fact, according to a criminal defense lawyer Riverside, CA, the opposite may be true.

Between 1980 and 2016, the arrest rate in California substantially dropped. In 2016, it reached a historic low of 3,400 arrests per 100,000 residents. PPIC attributes this to an overall decline in the statewide crime rate. In addition, the statewide arrest rate went down after two key criminal justice reforms: public safety realignment and Proposition 47.

After the passage of the public safety realignment measure, there was a decline in the arrest rate by about 7 percent — due to a drop in the number of misdemeanor traffic and alcohol-related arrests. This law shifted responsibility for many non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual offenses from the state to counties. In November 2014, the arrest rate went down another 11 percent after voters approved Prop 47. This law reclassified a number of property and drug felonies as misdemeanors.

There are significant differences in arrest rates between counties. Interestingly, small, rural counties have higher arrest rates than more populous counties. Although many of us perceive bigger cities and more populated areas as being hotbeds of criminal activities, counties with the lower arrest rates tend to have greater populations (about 2,000 residents per square mile). In contrast, counties with the highest arrest rates have an average of less than 50 residents per square mile.

In addition, counties with the highest arrest rates typically have greater levels of poverty and lowest average annual earnings. They also have higher unemployment and lower college graduation rates. In more affluent counties, there tends to be a bigger disparity in arrest rates between African Americans and white residents. On average, African Americans are arrested 6 times more often in these counties than in less affluent counties (where they are arrested at double the rate of white people).

The data on arrest rates is interesting — and can tell us a lot about what is happening in response to criminal justice reform. However, if you are arrested in California, your primary concern won’t be what the data shows — but whether you will be convicted of a crime. An experienced criminal defense lawyer Riverside, CA can help.

At the Chambers Law Firm, we are highly skilled at defending our clients against a range of California criminal charges, from misdemeanors to the most serious felony offenses. Contact our firm today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal defense lawyer Riverside, CA.

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