New PRI Report Shows State Experiencing ‘Mass Victimization’ After Decade of Sweeping Criminal Justice Policy Changes

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SACRAMENTO – Following the death of a Selma police officer allegedly at the hands a convicted felon out on probation through AB 109, the nonpartisan Pacific Research Institute today released a new paper showing that the Selma case is not an isolated incident.


“Paradise Lost: Crime in the Golden State 2011-2021,” authored by PRI senior fellow Steve Smith, documents how a decade of dramatic criminal justice policy changes aimed at reducing incarceration – including AB 109 and Prop. 47 and 57 – and sweeping executive orders issued by Gov. Newsom during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to what Smith calls “mass victimization.”


“Many academics and politicians argue that these massive policy changes have not increased state crime rates,” said Smith.  “As my research shows, the effort to decarcerate and decriminalize has led to tragic a new reality – ‘mass victimization’ through increasing homicides, sexual assaults, aggravated assaults, thefts, and overdose deaths.”


Smith notes that in 2011, before a decade of policy mistakes were enacted, California was the safest it had been in 30 years.  But to address overcrowded prisons and turn around ineffective rehabilitation programs, the state released prisoners who were unfit for release, effectively decriminalized thefts and drugs, and tied the hands of prosecutors.


The results were predictable says Smith, creating an environment for increased violence and released inmates are re-offending.  Citing state Department of Justice figures, the study found that between 2011 and 2021 in California:


  • Homicides rose 31.6 percent;
  • Aggravated assaults rose 34.6 percent; and
  • Drug overdose deaths rose approximately 715 percent.

Some reported crimes, including burglaries and larcenies (thefts) declined during the same period, but Smith notes this due to changed definitions of crimes or declining reporting.


Looking at homicide victimization rates by racial groups, blacks are victimized at nearly 4.5 times their percentage of the population while Hispanic victimization rates are about equal to their percentage and white victimization rates are about half their percentage.  Smith concludes that the state can still achieve its goals of correcting racial disparities in our criminal justice system, but should do so through crime reduction which will also prevent victimization.


“Too many Californians have felt a collective trauma in the absence of public safety and many have lost confidence in our institutions,” said Smith.  “It’s long past time to end the policy mistakes that are putting dangerous offenders out on the streets and exposing every Californian to becoming a crime victim.”


About the Author:

During his thirty-year criminal justice career, Steve Smith has served as a municipal police officer, sheriff’s deputy, and district attorney’s investigator, in addition to serving as a lead instructor in the Administration of Justice program at Gavilan College in Gilroy.  He has also done extensive international law enforcement and security work.


The Pacific Research Institute ( champions freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility by advancing free-market policy ideas.  Follow PRI on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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