Since the 1970s, the United States embraced punitive criminal justice practices, resulting in the reliance on imprisonment as a form of punishment. As prison populations across the nation increased exponentially over several decades, the United States experienced a mass incarceration problem that had adverse personal, economical, and social effects within and beyond prison walls. Realizing these problems, the nation began to experience a paradigm shift toward decarceration efforts. California is among the leading states in this decarceration movement. In 2006, the California District Court mandated action by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce the populations of their severely overcrowded prisons. For ten years following this mandate, California policymakers passed six policies aimed at decarceration in response to the court mandate.
Some of the decarceration policies in California have been scrutinized amidst fears that they would cause an increase in crime. To address these concerns, scholarly works have been dedicated to the impact of decarceration policies on crime. Despite existing research efforts, important questions about the subject remain. The current study investigating the impact of decarceration policies on crime in California using three different analyses. First, the study will examine state-level crime using a synthetic cohort analysis to compare 40 years of California Part I crime with that of other states. Second, the study will utilize panel data analysis to examine 34 years of annual crime trends for all California counties. Third, the study will use a time series analysis to observe 10 years of monthly crime data for a single county in the state. Implications on research, policy, and practice will be discussed following findings from the analyses. CA/NCF
KEY WORDS: incarceration, decarceration, policy, impact, California, crime