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California's "realignment" program, aimed at reducing overcrowding in state prisons by diverting more low-level felons into local custody and probation, has sharply reduced state inmate numbers, according to a new report, but the rate of decline seems to be slowing.

The report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco charts the first nine months of realignment ending June 30.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature adopted the program as an alternative to releasing inmates directly from prison in response to federal court orders to reduce severe prison overcrowding. The state is sending money to counties to keep more convicted felons in local jails, rather than send them to prison, take over parole supervision and provide more intensive probation oversight.

The study found that during the first nine months, there was a 39 percent reduction in new prison admissions and an inmate population drop of 26,480 -- two-thirds of the stated goal of a 40,000-inmate reduction.

But it suggests that the easy shifts may have been made and it will be tougher to meet the goal as diversion deals with felons who have more serious criminal records. And it also implies that some counties are deflecting the impact of realignment on local jails by "charging more defendants with those offenses still eligible for state imprisonment," singling out Los Angeles County's revised prosecutorial policies.


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