Brik McDill

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation news: “Results from the study out of UC Irvine suggest the passage of Proposition 47 in 2014 ‘has had no effect on violent crimes, including homicide, rape, aggravated assault and robbery,’ UCI said Wednesday.”

That was said to allay the fears of those many (including myself) who predicted an upsurge in crime. Some history and context is in order. Two laws enacted not long ago were meant to reduce prison overcrowding, nothing else and nothing more: AB 109 (Prison Realignment which introduced the notion of triple-non criminals – nonviolent, nonsexual, nonserious) and Prop. 47 (Reducing certain nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors).

State prison kept control of more serious and violent offenders (murder, rape, assault, and the like listed above). The kinds of criminals affected by AB109 and Prop 47 where the “property crime” criminals who had very high rates of recidivism – and still do.

It should surprise no one that the more “serious crime” criminals – those kept behind state prison bars – have been kept from repeating their crimes and are unaffected by AB109 and Prop. 47.

For UCI to state that after years of research they found no increase in violent crime due to AB109 and Prop 47 is to state the painfully and embarrassingly obvious: the violent crime rate has not gone up because of AB109 and Prop. 47 because the two laws had nothing to do with “violent crime” criminals or crime.

To repeat: they had nothing to do with violent, serious, or sexual crime. They were designed specifically and solely to reduce prison overpopulation by remanding lower level triple-non “property crime” criminals to county lockups.

Virtually everyone (again including myself) working in corrections at the time AB 109 and Propg 47 were being discussed and then enacted predicted that property crime would go up – which it has, resulting in over 400 California cities – including Bakersfield – begging the Governor to revisit and rethink the two laws because of surging local property crime rates.

The embarrassing UCI study is tantamount to a medical research firm announcing that after years of research they have found that insulin since the inception of its use has had no effect on tuberculosis or valley fever. Insulin has no effect on either — in the same way that AB 109 and Prop. 47 by their very definition have no effect on serious crime, but everything to do with triple-non property crime and its now soaring rates.

Let’s not forget that two serious immediate and direct effects of AB 109 and Prop. 47 were that county probation workers were overwhelmed with state referrals and could not keep up with their work supervising their charges, and that local county jails were likewise overwhelmed and couldn’t keep up with the flood of new inmates no longer being remanded to state prison custody.

The results of both in combination were that county jail remandments were booked and released within hours of arrival, and that probationees were “forced-error” neglected and ran amok due to overly thin supervision, no fault of probation workers.

Property offenders knew they were by wrinkle of law freed to do whatever petty crimes they wanted. Arrests were a matter of catch and release. Indeed older gangsters would often re-offend to get jailed in order to recruit new gang members. Jails were not equipped to deal with seasoned gang members who brought into jails new political gang dynamics and serious assaults and various and sundry other misbehaviors.

The UCI research was fatally flawed from the start. It’s surprising that any serious scholar would not immediately have seen the problem. If A is foreknown by definition to be wholly unrelated to B, one would expect and predict no connection between the two. And UCI unsurprisingly finds there isn’t. That’s nothing more than Research Methodology and Statistics 101.

The research wasn’t even necessary. The results were foregone ‘ere the research began. The fact that graduate level UCI did a research project that would have failed Community College lower division standards is disappointing. More than that though, it puts out information that misconceives the problem and misleads the public into thinking that everything’s OK when it’s not.

Back to the drawing boards for CDCR and UCI.

Dr. Brik McDill is a retired correctional psychologist. The opinions expressed are his own.