New Book Explores Why Many Californians Are Living in Fear, Outlines Reforms to Restore Safe Communities

New Book Explores Why Many Californians Are Living in Fear, Outlines Reforms to Restore Safe Communities

Well-meaning policy changes are undermining safe communities in California and must be reformed to restore public safety throughout the state, writes Pacific Research Institute fellow Kerry Jackson in his new book on crime in California, Living in Fear in California.

Living in Fear in California can be purchased at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books, Inc., and other booksellers.

“California once had the nation’s strongest public safety laws, but voters and lawmakers have recently embraced a radical shift in crime policy,” said Kerry Jackson, Fellow with PRI’s Center for California Reform, and the book’s author. “Massive changes have created big challenges for local law enforcement and put many innocent people at risk.  My book explores the impact these changes have had on California’s communities and urges policymakers to strike a balance between our obligation to crime victims and the rights of the accused and convicted.”

Using local, state, and federal crime data, first-hand interviews and anecdotes from across the state, Living in Fear in California provides a snapshot of crime in California today.  In the book, Jackson:

  • Reviews growing crime problems in California’s major cities, such as violent crime on the rise in Los Angeles, the ongoing wave of car break-ins in San Francisco and Oakland, the upsurge in violent crime in San Jose;
  • Explores increasing incidents of crime in rural communities, ongoing gang crime problems in urban areas, and rising violence in California’s schools; and
  • Analyzes the impact of sweeping policy changes made in recent years from mandatory sentencing laws to public safety realignment and California’s gun laws on the safety of California’s communities.

He also recommends free-market ideas and other realistic reforms to fix serious flaws and unintended consequences with the state’s well-meaning policy changes, such as embracing a private-sector restorative justice program that has made a difference in reducing shoplifting and lowering recidivism rates and embracing out-of-state and private prisons to house inmates, which have more accountability built in than state prisons.

“There’s no reason that increased public safety and reasonable criminal justice can’t live side by side in California,” Jackson writes in the conclusion to Living in Fear in California.  “California has long been known as a state that innovates. Policymakers should be searching for ground-breaking ideas while keeping in place established practices that have proved to be effective – and they must do it as cost-effectively as possible.”


Kerry Jackson is an independent journalist and opinion writer with extensive experience covering politics and public policy.  Currently a Fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute, Kerry writes weekly op-eds and blog posts on statewide issues and occasional policy papers.  In 2017, he wrote Unaffordable, an issue brief on California’s housing crisis which won bipartisan praise.  In 2018, he wrote Good Intentions, an issue brief on poverty in California, which garnered national media attention.


To schedule an interview with Kerry Jackson, contact PRI communications director Tim Anaya at (916) 389-9774 or tanaya@pacificresearch.org.

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.