An interdisciplinary team at the California State University, Chico, in partnership with Butte County officials found positive results in Butte County’s response to the shift of some felony offenders from stat prisons to county jails. The state’s criminal justice realignment, triggered by Assembly Bill 109, began shifting the custody and supervision of low-level felons to the counties in October 2011.
Shortly thereafter, the team of faculty members, called the Consortium for Public Safety Research (CPSR), partnered with Butte County to understand the impacts of additional offenders under county supervision because of AB 109. As an aspect of the partnership, the CPSR has focused on the impact of AB 109 on the Butte County Jail.
The Consortium reported three main findings, which were reported to the Butte County Community Corrections Partnership last week:
• Felons participating in the Butte County Sheriff’s Office Alternative Custody Supervision Program had a first-year recidivism rate of 14 percent, a lower rate than comparison group estimates. Alternative custody meant offenders served a portion of their sentences supervised outside of jail wearing an electronic-monitoring ankle bracelet.
• AB 109 offenders in Butte County were more likely to report needing rehabilitative and therapeutic services compared to those who were incarcerated for misdemeanors.
• Risk of program failure could be predicted by several social and criminal history factors, along with attitudinal scores based on a survey of offenders.
The Butte County Community Corrections Partnership, comprising Sheriff Jerry Smith, Chief Probation Officer Steve Bordin, District Attorney Mike Ramsey, Behavioral Health Director Anne Robin and Chief Administrative Officer Paul Hahn, met with the CPSR last week to hear findings of the report.
The report, titled “Considering the Life-Course of Crime: Contextualizing California’s
AB 109 Offender under Correctional Supervision,” was authored by CSU, Chico political science professors Jon Caudill, Ryan Patten, Sally Anderson and Matthew Thomas, and it includes research results as well as recommendations for future policies.
Caudill, the lead author, said the county’s Alternative Custody Supervision Program gave staff flexibility to choose which offenders could serve part of their sentence outside of jail with electronic-monitoring supervision. Many other counties chose to respond to the additional offenders by setting jail time and probation length at sentencing, which took away the ability to make custody decisions on a case-by-case basis.
In addition to the faculty involved in the report, numerous CSU, Chico students—both undergraduate and graduate—participated in the research project. Criminal justice interns logged more than 300 hours of work on this project and observed over 400 home visits with deputies to alternative custody clients.
The authors make several evidence-based recommendations, including expanding therapeutic services in the Butte County Jail and the successful Alternative Custody Supervision Program. As Caudill notes, this applied research “allows us to provide services to criminal justice agencies in our University’s service area, while also exemplifying the teacher-scholar model by integrating students into our research.”
Commenting on the report, Sheriff Smith said, "I am pleased with the progress we are achieving in our Alternative Custody Supervision Program. This report reaffirms that we are making headway in our ongoing effort to enhance public safety by reducing recidivism. The research conducted by the Chico State researchers is invaluable and enables us to deploy our limited resources in a manner likely to achieve the best outcomes. I look forward to continued collaboration with Chico State and greatly appreciate the University's commitment to helping us make our community a safer place."
The research project is supported through funding from the University, the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and the Department of Political Science. All inquiries and comments should be directed to Caudill at email@example.com.