The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has responsibility for the operation of the California state prison and parole systems. CDCR encompasses 33 adult correctional institutions, 13 adult community facilities and eight juvenile facilities with a population of approximately 183,000 offenders (2018). This memo examines both the challenges and opportunities facing CDCR as a result of California’s mandated reduction in prison population and the attendant core values that should remain the focus of research and recommendations.
Bardach teaches the first and crucial step of problem definition offers both the reason for and direction of, evidence-gathering research (Bardach & Patashnik, 2014). In reviewing the project proposal, literature, and related data, the following indicators are present:
· Too few training programs prepare offenders for reentry into society.
· Too many offenders do not participate in vocational educational programs.
· State spending on corrections is too high.
· Prison population is too high.
· Recidivism rates are too high
· Too many offenders are being released back into communities too quickly.
These challenges lead us to define the problem thusly: offender outcomes are insufficient to reach and maintain the state’s mandated reduction in prison population.
Challenges and Opportunities:
The problem description offers a framework for the challenges faced by CDCR, an organization with more than 170,000 offenders housed across multiple jurisdictions. Not only does California have highest rate of incarceration in the United States, it has the highest rate of recidivism as well (Lofstrom & Raphael, 2013). Currently realignment has successfully reduced the state’s prison population in a relatively short period of time. This has raised a concern for public safety. As of 2013, 18,000 offenders who would have been in prison or jail are not serving time; while crimes rates increased somewhat, there was no significant increase in violent crimes (Lofstrom & Martin, 2015).
Analysis shows that, as anticipated, arrests of released prisoners are down slightly and convictions are about the same due to fewer released offenders returning to CDCR custody. Overall results indicate a need for even more effective, targeted crime-deterring policies and for improvements in connecting former inmates to appropriate programming and rehabilitative services as necessary to reducing recidivism and relieving pressures on state prisons and county jails (Misczynski, 2012). CDCR has the opportunity to reduce recidivism, enhance public safety, and reduce taxpayer burden by enhancing its vocational educational training opportunities.
Public value is one that an organization contributes to society (Rutgers & Overeem, 2014). As Gawthrop notes (2005), in public administration the conclusive normative values should be the common good, service to others, and respect for all. For the multiple stakeholders considered: taxpayers, inmates, CDCR staff, and the client a shared public value is increased equity or common good. For taxpayers this is represented in fiscal savings that can be redirected to resolve other challenges, for inmates this is represented through employability and improved quality of life, for CDCR staff this is represented in a reduced prison population and improved allocation of resources, and for the client it is represented by tangible benefits such as reduced recidivism and economic benefits achieved through scalability of vocational educational training programs. Defining a scalable and replicable educational program to achieve the common good will require evaluation of program design, inmate demographics, post-release employment opportunities and employability, participant tracking, and program costs at a minimum. This evaluation is worthwhile as research indicates receiving correctional education while incarcerated reduces an individual’s risk of recidivating after release from prison and improves chances of post-release employment (Davis, Bozick, Steele, Saunders, & Miles, 2013).
By developing effective evaluative methods and conducting a thoughtful literature review we can determine best practices for CDCR to apply in their efforts to improve offender outcomes to reach and maintain the state’s mandated reduction in prison population.
Bardach, E., and Patashnik, E. (2012). A practical guide for policy analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press.
CDCR Population Report. (2018, January 1). Retrieved January 23, 2018, from https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports_Research/Offender_Information_Services_Branch/Population_Reports.html
Davis, L. M., Bozick, R., Steele, J. L., Saunders, J., Miles, J. N.V. (2013). Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Gawthrop, L. C. (2005). Public administration in a global mode: With sympathy and compassion. Public Integrity, 7(3), 241-259. doi:10.1080/10999922.2005.11051278.
Lofstrom, M., Martin, B. (2015). Public Safety Realignment: Impacts So Far. Public Policy Institute of California.
Lofstrom, M., Raphael, S. (2015). Realignment, Incarceration, and Crime Trends in California. Public Policy Institute of California.
Misczynski, D. (2012). Corrections Realignment: One Year Later. Public Policy Institute of California.?
Rutgers, M.R., Overeem, P. (2014). Public Values in Public Administration, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Volume 24, Issue 3, Pages 806–812.