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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Best Trilogy Since Star Wars

Okay, that might be over-selling it just a bit.  But David Ball of Santa Clara recently has posted to SSRN the third in his trilogy of articles inspired by the California prison "realignment." Since the Supreme Court's 2011 decision in Brown v. Plata affirmed an order directing the California Department of Corrections to reduce its prison population to within 137.5% of design capacity, California has passed legislation to move people sentenced for certain offenses from state prisons to county facilities, and commentators have debated the effects of this "realignment."  In his three articles, David demonstrates that counties rely on state corrections facilities (and funding) to varying degrees, and makes proposals that he hopes could require counties to internalize the costs of their reliance on incarceration.  In Tough on Crime (On the State's Dime), David demonstrates through dogged empirical analysis that counties with similar crime rates can have very different "prison usage" rates.  For example, David shows that, although San Bernadino County and Alameda County are about the same size and have roughly similar crime rates, San Bernadino has twice the new felon admissions of Alameda County.  In Why Should States Pay for Prisons, When Local Officials Decide Who Goes There?, he makes the normative argument that states should not subsidize prisons when who goes there is controlled by the decisions of local prosecutors.  And, finally, in Defunding State Prisons. David argues that states should receive "violent crime block grants" based on their violent crime rates that they could spend as they think best--on prison beds, police on the streets, or drug programs.  When David presented Defunding State Prisons at the prison scholarship roundtable at the University of Michigan a few weeks ago, a few readers were skeptical that poor counties could address the fundamental problems underlying their violent crime rates with just the resources "recaptured" from a decision to purchase fewer state prison beds.  Others posited that David's proposal would in effect "crash" county systems that refused to confront their unsustainable levels of incarceration.  Whatever your ultimate assessment of David's proposals, this is one trilogy definitely worth checking out.  (I will spare you further Star Wars references).

Posted by GiovannaShay on February 19, 2013 at 02:04 PM | Permalink


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The "Star Wars" analogy is good, but not perfect. Unlike "Star Wars," David's next three articles won't suck.

Posted by: Kyle | May 28, 2013 1:26:54 AM

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