Realignment has benefited our economy in both obvious ways, and in at least one way that may not be known by those outside the criminal justice profession.  Realignment is the name given to the Assembly Bill passed several years ago that, in a nutshell, allowed non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offenders to be housed in county jails rather than state prisons.  It also created community supervision which gives counties the authority to supervise those released from their jails.  The purpose was to reduce overcrowding, decrease recidivism, and foster (what is supposedly the main purpose of our correctional facilities) rehabilitation of inmates (Department of Corrections AND Rehabilitation).

So what’s the benefit to the economy?  Employment means the flow of money.  People get paid and they can use that money to buy stuff.  If they don’t have a job they can’t get paid and they can’t buy stuff, or pay for services.  Obviously people in prison can’t contribute a whole heck of a lot behind bars.  And people who go to prison rather than county jail are statistically more likely to recidivate, thus landing them back in prison and not contributing to our economy (except in terms of participation in the prison industrial complex)  They have the capability of being much more productive if they don’t have the chains and orange jumpsuits weighing them down, and a county jail sentence can improve the likelihood of keeping the chains off in the future.  So that’s the obvious way realignment has benefited our economy.

The Not so Known Benefit:

What people might not realize is that the way California’s expungement statutes are written, a person must either be convicted of a misdemeanor crime (with the exception of certain sex crimes) which doesn’t trigger a prison sentence, or a felony crime, and NOT have stepped foot in prison ever to be eligible for an expungement.  The second a person charged with a felony serves any time in prison, the only hope for “cleaning” his or her record is through the long and difficult process of petitioning for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and/ or a Pardon.  A person usually has to wait between 7 and 10 years to even be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation.  And then even if granted one or both of the previously mentioned, that would not prevent an employer from using the person’s conviction against him or her in the hiring process.

Now, with realignment resulting in many more people going to county jail rather than prison, under Penal Code Section 1203.41, if a person has been convicted of a felony but served time only in jail, that person is still eligible for an expungement.  Previously many of these felons would have done some time in prison, thus precluding them from an expungement in the future.  And the wonderful thing about expungements is that they allow a person to truthfully answer in most employment applications that the person has never been convicted of the crime expunged.  Therefore, non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offenders who served time in county jail only will have a much better chance at securing employment because they will not be required to disclose their conviction, and employers are prohibited from using the conviction against them pursuant to Labor Code Section 432.7.  If these people do take advantage of this right (which they are required to be informed of by the court), they can contribute by both working and consuming, thereby positively impacting our economy.  Oh yeah, and those who are employed are at a much lower risk of re-offending.  Common sense criminal justice reform isn’t just for hippies, it’ll also benefit the most right wing tycoons as well. . .

Share This