Promoting Public Safety and Criminal Justice

Since 2011, California has embarked on a series of dramatic criminal justice reform efforts, ranging from realignment to recent ballot initiatives that have changed the state’s approach to nonviolent offenders. This has coincided with a national conversation around constitutional policing and racial disparities, as well as increased scrutiny on law enforcement, bail practices, and fees and fines. At the same time, law enforcement executives and their management teams are seeking guidance about how to recruit, retain, train, and support personnel in these changing and complex times.

To this end, the California Policy Lab is partnering with city, county, and state law enforcement agencies on projects ranging from crime prevention, policing and training, sentencing, corrections, probation, and reentry. As a nonpartisan and independent partner, CPL brings decades of expertise, advanced data analysis, and objective research and evaluation to help answer urgent questions. We help our partners identify patterns, develop insights, and test new policies that will improve agency governance and public safety for California.

Example Projects

CPL is partnering with San Francisco District Attorney’s Office to identify individuals who come into frequent contact with the criminal justice system and their distinguishing characteristics to determine whether there are interventions that could reduce utilization and improve public safety.

REPORT PAGE: High Users of San Francisco’s Criminal Justice System

CPL measured the impact of a pilot effort to intercept drugs and other contraband at the state’s prisons. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spent $10.4 million over two years to pilot a program that increased scanning, canines, and enhanced searches for inmates and visitors at certain corrections facilities. CPL found that intensive interdiction efforts reduced drug use by nearly 25%, but that more moderate efforts did not alter drug use at all.

REPORT PAGE: The Effects of California’s Enhanced Drug and Contraband Interdiction Program on Drug Abuse and Inmate Misconduct in California’s Prisons

Working with the San Francisco Public Defender, CPL evaluated the impact of a new Pretrial Release Unit (PRU) that provided attorney representation to indigent defendants earlier in the process than is customary. The study found the pilot program doubled the likelihood of release at arraignment – from 14% to 28% – for arrestees who received arrest-responsive interventions from the PRU. The PRU’s efforts to advocate for the dismissal of parole holds reduced pre-trial incarceration by 44%, or an average of 9.5 days.

REPORT PAGE: Early Criminal Defense Yields Large Reductions in Pre-Trial Detention

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