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Criminal defense changes help California cons

A large number of California residents have been pushing against the massive increases in prison spending that occurred during the past decade. A revamped criminal defense program took hold in the state just two years ago, with major policy changes that shifted responsibility for offenders to county leaders. Instead of spending excessive amounts on mass incarceration, local options were provided to offenders who can now pursue rehabilitation instead of simply wasting away in a cell. A new report shows that most statewide leaders are still on board with the changes, which are designed to provide additional social support for offenders instead of abandoning them to a life in jail.

Researchers associated with the effort say they were shocked that no public officials wanted to repeal the legislation. In fact, they all emphasized that they knew it was time for change in the California justice system. The state was plagued with penal problems, including the highest recidivism rate in the nation. That means that more people were likely to commit crimes over and over in California than in any other state. Even though overcrowding and other problems persist in the state, most people think the new program is working.

The study showed that more than 100,000 felons have been transferred to county systems to serve their time and their parole since October 2011. Even though some spikes in crime rates have been seen, scholars say an increase in violent crime is not likely to follow the changes. One of the most positive changes throughout the state is that low-level offenders are far less likely to spend time in jail. Those individuals are instead funneled into programs that allow them to simply pay fees, attend classes and perform community service instead of serving time.

California's new perspective on incarceration may not be perfect, but it provides a great deal of hope for many who would have otherwise been trapped in prison for a small criminal conviction.

Source: www.mercurynews.com, "California study examines titanic shift in criminal justice" Tracey Kaplan, Nov. 10, 2013

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results