Critics of California's 2014 Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for many nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, said it would lead to crime increases by releasing dangerous offenders. Mike Males of the nonprofit Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice says an analysis of data establishes that the critics are wrong. California released more than 4,500 inmates under the measure. Males compared changes in crime rates from 2014 to 2015 in California's 68 largest cities.
If the reduction in local jail populations after Proposition 47 passed is responsible for the urban crime increase in early 2015, then cities in counties with the largest reductions in jail populations in 2015 would show the biggest increases in crime, Males says. The data suggest this is not the case. The cities in 11 counties with the largest decreases in both total jail populations and felony jail populations showed equivalent changes in violent crime, and smaller increases in property and total crime, than the cities in 10 counties with the smallest decreases in jail populations. In these 11 counties with larger jail population decreases, the overall crime rate increased by only 1 percent. In the 10 counties with smaller jail population decreases, overall crime increased by 6 percent.