While overall crime in California increased slightly after 2011, San Joaquin County’s dropped 20% — and hit a decades-old low last year. The county’s jail, which had been under court-ordered monitoring because of dangerous overcrowding, now has empty beds. Participation in specialized drug courts has increased and recidivism among newly released offenders has dropped.
It is unclear how much of the county’s success is the result of its new programs rather than other factors, such as hiring more officers once the county’s finances improved. But San Joaquin County has become an intriguing model for other counties curious about what might work in an era of criminal justice reform.
Emissaries from Yuba County have drawn inspiration from its educational programs for offenders. A Kern County judge came to examine an alternative court and spoke highly of the collaborative court model to local leaders in Bakersfield. And after the governor signed sweeping legislation this year eliminating cash bail for pretrial defendants, dozens of counties sent representatives to learn how San Joaquin County adopted a similar approach years earlier.
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