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California theft incidence rises thanks to prisoner release

A new report shows that increased efforts to change the state of California's overpopulated prisons may actually be leading to an increase in property crime. Official reports show that lawmakers and law-enforcement advocates may have been right in their assertions that petty theft, burglary and shoplifting would increase in frequency after offenders were released from custody. Changes to the California code occurred in October 2011, after a lawsuit and subsequent orders gave counties more responsibility for lower-level offenders.

Now, an additional 18,000 offenders who were involved in burglary and other theft crimes have been released back into the general population. Analysis shows that those 18,000 individuals may have played a major role in perpetrating the 7.6 percent increase in property crime throughout the region. A report from the Public Policy Institute of California identifies the legislative changes as the factor that sparked the growth in California's property crime rates.

State information shows that prisons could discharge an additional 8,000 inmates after the initial batch were freed; those changes are required to satisfy the requirements of a federal lawsuit related to prison overcrowding. Administrators say that the increase in property crime is probably just a slight hurdle, and the correctional system needs time to adjust to the new changes. Crime rates had been at all-time lows before the thousands of prisoners were released. Critics say that the plan should be reconsidered altogether.

Those convicted of criminal charges deserve to live in humane conditions, not overcrowded prisons. Even those who have criminal records for theft charges should be treated with this same respect. Those convicts who have been freed may be blamed for the uptick in crime, but they were being treated in such an inhumane fashion that the releases were warranted. Criminal defense attorneys can help their clients learn more about the far-reaching consequences of this new prison release program.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Report links property crime spike to California prisoner reduction plan" Brad Branan, Dec. 10, 2013

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results