Eye on the Courts: Yolo DA Already Complaining About Prop. 47 Impact on Crime Rate

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During his report to the County Board of Supervisors at last week’s meeting, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig expressed concerns about Proposition 47 and what he cites as rising crime.

Mr. Reisig told the Board of Supervisors that, over the last several years, “what we’ve seen is increasing property and violent crime in Yolo County.” While he blamed this on AB 109 and expressed concerns about Prop. 47, he acknowledged the trend in Yolo County “isn’t in line with statewide averages.”

He noted that “all of it coincides with the implementation of AB 109 and then more recently with Prop. 47 where we’ve already started to see in the short amount of time that it’s been in place, a big spike in property crime in Yolo County.”

He called Prop. 47 “basically a decriminalization in crimes that used to result in a state prison sentence.”

Mr. Reisig said, “We can debate the merits of the policy, but it’s moot because it’s law. We’re going to be struggling to find creative ways to deal with the fall out.”

Supervisor Matt Rexroad asked if we know that the people who are released on Prop. 47 are the ones committing the crimes. Mr. Reisig responded that five months into this, yes, “what we are seeing is revolving door on these low level arrests.”

Mr. Reisig told the Board that, while they have the space to put misdemeanor defendants into custody, “the challenge is frankly the court and getting the judges to adopt that type of approach.”

Currently, judges are not giving jail time for drug offenses, Mr. Reisig said. Instead, they are referred out to the probation department for a review to determine what they of services they need, “but we don’t have any services being offered to them right now.”

“Our hope is that, yes, all the studies show that drug offenders, that when you have incarceration or at least the threat of incarceration as part of the formula to get them treatment, it works better,” he said.

Supervisor Jim Provenza said, “When people voted for the proposition they were probably assuming that people would get time in jail when it was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.”

Mr. Reisig added, “It was also assumed that there would be money for treatment, but that’s not true. There is no money from Prop. 47 until potentially 2016, and even that is yet to be realized.”

Some have naturally taken this presentation by the district attorney as confirming their fear that Prop. 47 will lead to a dramatic rise in crime.

The data even on AB 109 is early and inconclusive. A January 2014 report, analyzing 2012 data, showed no statewide pattern between AB 109 Realignment and crime. A study from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice found “no conclusive trends demonstrating a causal relationship between Realignment and crime, even among counties in close geographic proximity.”

They added, “There may be non-Realignment factors that inform an increase in certain crimes.”

This report offers a cautionary tale for Mr. Reisig’s analysis: “The lack of a clear pattern—in fact, it is hard to imagine a pattern that is more ambivalent and complicated—indicates the perils of drawing hard conclusions about a single, albeit important, public policy change such as Realignment based on short-term crime trends.”

If Realignment brought more crime, they conclude, “counties with higher proportions of realigned individuals would have experienced larger increases in crime in 2012, after Realignment’s implementation. Moreover, this hypothesis would mean that systems with greater local management, as opposed to reliance on the state system, would have greater increases in crime.”

Instead, they write, “The data do not support either conclusion; in fact, self-reliant counties seemed to have somewhat more favorable crime trends. In addition, violent crime trends do not seem to be affected by level of Realignment or by degree of local versus state management.”

Mr. Reisig in his presentation argued that they have seen a huge increase in property crimes in the last few months, which he attributes to Prop. 47. He argued that they are seeing a revolving door.

However, when Supervisor Matt Rexroad asked for data, Mr. Reisig indicated that he is collecting it, but he did not share any. Given the gravity of his claims, it would have been helpful if he had been able and willing to present even a few months’ worth of data to back it up.

Instead, Mr. Reisig focused on how police are handling meth arrests, suggesting that they are being given tickets, the judges are referring them to probation and arguing that there are no resources for treatment.

However, Yolo County has some options that the DA has reportedly refused to take. One possibility is to divert Prop. 47 defendants into treatment at the Yolo County Day Reporting Center. The DRC was opened in February 2013 and it provides vocational training, life skills which are designed to teach offenders the skills they need to find a job.

One of the programs they have includes drug and alcohol treatments.

The district attorney complained that they do not have services available and yet has reportedly refused this as an option, for reasons that are not immediately clear.

Supervisor Provenza stated that most people in his estimate assumed that there would be jail time still for the misdemeanors. However, our assumption was the Prop. 47 would begin to shift the way we handle low-level drug offenses from a punishment to a treatment-based approach.

While we sympathize that there is a lag time between the implementation of Prop. 47 in December 2014 to the availability of new monies to the counties in January 2016, there are still service options available that the DA has simply refused to consider.

The bottom line is that Prop. 47 is not going to go away anytime soon. The DA is right about the need to get creative. From our observation in the courtroom, their creativity has been on the punishment side, trying to stretch some possession cases into possession for sales – that’s not going to work very well.

We should utilize our resources to go to a more restorative and treatment-based approach. It is ironic that, in the same talk where he trumpeted the success of his Neighborhood Court Program, he failed to recognize the potential for extending that program to cover Prop. 47 cases.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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17 thoughts on “Eye on the Courts: Yolo DA Already Complaining About Prop. 47 Impact on Crime Rate”

  1. Frankly

    We should utilize our resources to go to a more restorative and treatment based approach. It is ironic that in the same talk where he trumpeted the success of his Neighborhood Court Program that he failed to recognize the potential for extending that program to cover Prop 47 cases.

    The long-term social narrative seems to swing back and forth between concern about crime to concern about how we are dealing with criminals.

    By its nature, a restorative process is reactionary.  It happens after the crime has taken place and after the criminal is apprehended.  It relies on the effectiveness of law enforcement to identify and capture the suspect, and then the court system to charge and convict.  But in the traditional criminal law system prior to Prop 47, a higher percentage of these lower-level repeat criminals would be locked up and unable to commit the next crime.   The reason that the advocates for this softer approach have any traction these days is because previous demands for tougher crime prevention have largely been successful.  We feel safe enough to hold a bit more empathy for the criminal.   But this isn’t going to last if the softer restorative process contributes to greater crime.  The pendulum will swing back again with a rise in crime rates because every victim of a crime becomes an advocate for tougher crime prevention… which includes tougher penalties for criminals.

    The advocates of a softer restorative method better get busy advocating for drug treatment and other services to repair these people that will do the crime.  Because lacking these things we will see the pendulum swing back to again demand tougher crime prevention.

    The Yolo County DA is fully engaged in pushing a restorative process, but he and others law enforcement and criminal justice professionals cannot solve the problems of dealing with more of these people on the streets that repeatedly commit crimes.  The champions of a softer and more empathetic approach should not mistake Prop 47 as some evidence of a permanent shift in opinion about crime and punishment.  Prop 47 wasn’t a win for them.  It was only a nod by the public that they supported the work to build a treatment infrastructure to replace some of our prison infrastructure.

    1. Davis Progressive

      unfortunately frankly, you get more wrong than right here.

      “By its nature, a restorative process is reactionary”

      it is reactive only in the sense that it occurs after the fact, but in a very real sense it is a lot more proactive about preventing future crimes than a more traditional approach.

      ” But in the traditional criminal law system prior to Prop 47, a higher percentage of these lower-level repeat criminals would be locked up and unable to commit the next crime.  The reason that the advocates for this softer approach have any traction these days is because previous demands for tougher crime prevention have largely been successful.  ”

      in practice that approach has not worked.  we have a 70 percent recidivism rate, which is largely due to the fact that we lock someone in custody for a period of time and then release them.  they may have to serve time, but there is little accountability.   they don’t have to acknowledge mistakes, they don’t have to seek treatment.  they are turned out with no job skills and having to check the “felony box” limiting their chances for employment.

      you call the restorative approach a “softer” approach but that really belies your bias.  in a lot of ways a restorative approach is harder.  it forces the criminal to be confronted by the person he wronged or society in general.  they have to admit mistakes.  understand the harm they did.  and then figure out how to rectify it.  in many ways that is far harder than having to simply serve time.

      you say the yolo da is fully engaged in a restorative process, my understanding is that is not really true.  he has created a halfway measure, refuses to push the program past a very low level and victim less offenses and instead of creating a fully vorp or program like they have in fresno, continues to trumpet this.

      he has the opportunity to push restorative justice further, instead he’s fighting to hang onto a system that is not working.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        You miss a lot of steps. They start with few job skills: many haven’t graduated high school, and many don’t have fathers. A lot join gangs, and / or do drugs. You skip over these facts, as well as I’ve read that the average criminal has committed dozens of crimes before they are actually caught.

        I had a friend who worked in social services and he said the typical criminal has a very high degree of violent tendancies, and a low level of empathy. Add in the above factors, and we have a recipe for disaster. Plus an educational system that fails, and many schools no longer teach shop, and I haven’t seen a lot of apprentice jobs as many trades prefer to rely on cheap illegal immigrant labor.

        1. Davis Progressive

          i wasn’t writing a book, i was responding to frankly.  i fully support moving minor crimes from a punitive approach to a restorative approach.  part of that is the types of job skills that the drc and other such programs can offer in addition to drug treatment.

          “A lot join gangs, and / or do drugs.”

          we’re largely talking about drug users in the prop 47 world, most of whom are not gang members.

          “You skip over these facts, as well as I’ve read that the average criminal has committed dozens of crimes before they are actually caught.”

          you may have read and repeated it here, i live this stuff and its a useless comment.  obviously a first time drug user – who had up until november committed a felony – is not likely to be caught.  so in that sense of the word, yes, the average person arrested for possession has probably committed hundreds or thousands of crimes.  but that’s not very helpful in solving the problem.

  2. Tia Will

    Frankly

    The long-term social narrative seems to swing back and forth between concern about crime to concern about how we are dealing with criminals.”

    The critical factor that I see as missing from the DAs presentation, from the Vanguard article, and from your analysis as well as from the “long term social narrative” is the importance of prevention. As a society, we spend relatively little of our time and resources on preventing the types of problems that lead people into drug addiction, petty crime and gang activities. Both the political right and left wring our hands about family structure, poverty, poor education, lack of values and yet we continue to leave children exposed to the environments that foster these problems by supporting parental rights at all costs as though these children should be treated as biological possessions subject to the whims of their individual parents until age 18 at which time they are somehow magically supposed to morph into responsible contributing members of our society. How exactly is that supposed to occur if we return them time and time again to their violent, abusive, neglectful, criminal,  drug using parents ?

     

     

    1. Topcat

      Both the political right and left wring our hands about family structure, poverty, poor education, lack of values and yet we continue to leave children exposed to the environments that foster these problems by supporting parental rights at all costs as though these children should be treated as biological possessions subject to the whims of their individual parents until age 18 at which time they are somehow magically supposed to morph into responsible contributing members of our society. How exactly is that supposed to occur if we return them time and time again to their violent, abusive, neglectful, criminal,  drug using parents ?

      Perhaps there should be more attention to the possibility of those violent, abusive, neglectful, criminal,  drug using parents not having children in the first place.  I certainly don’t have the answer to how to accomplish this, but it sure would benefit everyone.

      1. Tia Will

        Topcat

        Perhaps there should be more attention to the possibility of those violent, abusive, neglectful, criminal,  drug using parents not having children in the first place.”

        I could not agree more and have advocated my entire career for the voluntary use of free long acting reversible contraceptives. I would incentivize women who are in trouble with law by offering some mitigation of their sentences if they were to agree to the acceptance of an implantable device while in rehab or job retraining or societal re entry programs.

        I would also offer free implantable contraceptives to all women in job or skills training programs as well as in high school and college.

        But I fully anticipate that such proactive programs will not pass political muster just as fully funding drug rehab programs has not.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          I think a major problem with drug rehab programs is there is such a high failure rate. When 70-80-90% of enrollees go back to their previous lifestyle, it makes it tough for Joe Public to agree to fund more programs.

          I’d like to see more experiments / research, which would include work details (chain gangs, no chains) where there is hard labor, and actual job skills for non-violent offenders. Just as I see some prisons are doing away with face-tio-face visits with family as there are too many drugs passed through. I would also include screening sheriffs / prison employees who may smuggle in drugs, we need a multi-prong approach.

          1. Don Shor

            I think a major problem with drug rehab programs is there is such a high failure rate.

            This is an unfortunate reality that gets overlooked anytime people talk about substance abuse as a disease and pushing for treatment programs. And unfortunately, unless people are incentivized somehow to seek and stay with treatment, it is even less likely to succeed.

        2. Davis Progressive

          and you know why?  how long is residential treatment program?  maybe six months?  that’s not enough time to really get someone clean.  what you need to do is make a two year program where you remove the person from their environment, you spend the first six months cleaning them up, then you train them in job skills, then you rebuild their support network so by the time they re-enter the real world, they are ready to have a job, relocate, and have total broken old habits.  but we don’t do that.

  3. Anon

    I saw the charts.  Clearly crime is up in Yolo according to the charts immediately after the implementation of Prop 47.  I suspect the reason is because there is a revolving door and no money is provided for drug treatment programs to divert defendants to.  This reminds me so much of the closing of mental health institutions years ago, but no funding was provided locally for mental health services, which ended up creating more homelessness. If you squeeze a problem out of one end of a toothpaste tube, it moves out the other end of the tube.

    1. Davis Progressive

      it’s probably not very meaningful that crime is up immediately after a massive change in the handling of 40,000 people who were in custody.  the more meaningful statistic is what happens in five years when the programs are in place and things have shaken out and settled down.  do we put the money into meaningful treatment programs or do we simply attempt to paper over the bandaid.

  4. Tia Will

    A truly forward looking approach would have been to allocate the funds to rehabilitation and job training programs prior to initiating the changes in the legal system.  Sigh …..

    1. Davis Progressive

      of course.  the problem is that the politicians have refused to act on this, so the people approved the proposition.  it’s imperfect.

  5. Miwok

    Supervisor Matt Rexroad asked if we know that the people who are released on Prop. 47 are the ones committing the crimes. Mr. Reisig responded that five months into this, yes, “what we are seeing is revolving door on these low level arrests.”

    I would assume if facts were in evidence, the DA would have brought them. Next they will tell me they do not have a Management Tracking System for case management at the DA’s office. Why would not Sheriff and Police figures for arrests be included?

    So far, opinions, not facts. Sounds like fishin for more money..

  6. Tia Will

    ’ like to see more experiments / research, which would include work details (chain gangs, no chains) where there is hard labor, and actual job skills for non-violent offenders.”

    I do not see what you would see as “experimental” about chain gangs. We had this type of brutality for years in this country and found it cruel if not unusual.  If we decide to introduce barbarity into our laws, what barbarities will we then find acceptable ?

    We have very recently had a flirtation with torture which we called  “enhanced interrogation” but which we universally and correctly abhorred when it was being practiced under another name against one of “our own”, John McCain.

    This is not being soft on criminals. This is taking a long hard look at the outcomes of officially sanctioned cruelty on our society. I do not believe that we can set one set of moral standards for behavior for those we have not caught and convicted of crimes, and a different set for those we have. Acts have a moral and ethical basis, or they do not. We do not get to pick and choose based on whom we label “the good guys vs the bad guys”.

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