Projections and Uncertainty

Nov 28th, 2011 | By | Category: Realignment, Spotlight

Projections and Uncertainty

Is it a Quantum Physics Problem?
Richard Krupp, Ph.D.

In a recent Los Angeles Times article some counties are complaining that the “Re-alignment/Misalignment” procedure has sent more inmates their way than had been projected.”  For instance:

  • Los Angeles County was projected to add about 600 state prisoners by now but has booked more than 900.
  • Orange County’s transfers are running more than double what the state estimated.
  • Riverside County is now at 93% capacity and will be full by January.

Has there been an error in the projections?  A brief look at the projection process may be helpful.  The Department of Corrections has been using a complex inmate population projection system for a number of years to help determine how many inmates they need to house in the upcoming years.

The Bureau of State Audits (BSA) reviewed the prison population projection system in 2005 and found, “the projection is useful for assessing the next two years’ budget needs but has limited usefulness for longer-range planning, such as the need to build new prisons.”  For example, BSA found, “the department’s fall 1995 projection forecast that the inmate population would exceed 232,000 in 2001. However, the actual population in 2001 was 161,000, a difference of 71,000 inmates.”

If we look at the spring inmate population projections going back to 2006 we can see what the 2011 inmate population was projected to be, compared to the actual population on November 14, 2011 of 155,258.  As with most projections the farther out you look, the less accurate you will be.  As in quantum physics, in any measurement there is an element of uncertainty.  In this case, it is not a shortcoming of the projection calculation, just a product of the large number of variables and various adjustments made by outside processes.

Projected 2011 inmate population

Year of Projection Projected Population Difference from actual Error Rate
2006 193,195 37,937


2007 186,148 30,890


2008 167,535 12,277


2009 172,205 16,947


2010 164,671    9,413


2011 161,546    6,288



The closer you get to 2011, the smaller the error rate.  Outside variables that can impact the projections include:

  • Adjustments – Los Angeles District Attorney, Steve Cooley said his office is teaching its lawyers to “scour” criminal records to make sure they note any prior offenses when they file new charges, and to make sure that new charges include offenses categorized as serious, violent or sexual when possible.
  • Proportionality – With more than 150,000 beds/cells the Department of Corrections can much more easily handle a few hundred inmates than a county with a few hundred or a few thousand beds/cells.
  • Bed Days – The Department of Corrections typically makes room for inmates that stay in prison for more than an average of two years.  County jails typically house inmates for closer to two months.  At this rate one prison inmate is equivalent to six jail inmates as far as bed days are concerned.

Recent viewpoints expressed by Roger Warren of the National Center for State Courts and Barry Krisberg of UC Berkley have been supportive of the “misalignment procedure.”  In part the hope is that “evidence-based treatment programs” will cure the inmates of their criminality if they stay at the local level.  Unfortunately there is little if any “evidence” that any program will “cure the inmates” of their criminal behavior.  This is actually a major outside variable.  Criminals are not likely to view the “misalignment procedure” as a procedure they want to undergo.

Criminals may view all of these misguided “procedures” as an opportunity to take advantage of the criminal justice system.  For example, the murder rate in Stockton went up 50% in 2010 compared to the prior year and with the 54th murder a few days ago* is set to surpass last years’ total.  California citizens are likely to bear the brunt of the misalignment one way or the other.

*The 54th murder just broke the Stockton record.

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10 Comments to “Projections and Uncertainty”

  1. Nick Strauss says:

    Under “Anald’s” watch we had NRP (non revocable parole). These inmates were “non-non-non”s…the real ones, because they had no serious/violent or 290 past. Now these NRP’s are coming back to prison with new convections. NRP failed in less than a year. Did any of the NRP supporters have gotten an 1123 for making multi-million dollar “misconduct” and jeopardizing taxpayer’s money just to impress the emperor of CA and hang on to their jobs? I don’t think so. (FYI: C/Os are getting booked for much lesser “misconducts”.) Which brings me to AB109: it is not about reforms or population reduction, this is about to impress someone a step above.

  2. kl2008a says:

    I wonder if they factored in how the county’s always try to make room for the holiday drunk tanks about a week or two BEFORE Christmas.How many CDC now County bodies will cut loose early to prepare accomodations for the festive season?

  3. Howie Katz says:

    Only educated idiots could hope that Gov. Moonbeam’s realignment program will cure prison inmates of their criminality because they are now being handled at the local level. Cure them of their criminality? These guys must be smoking a hefty dose of Kookfornia’s medical marijuana.

  4. Bob Walsh says:

    Hope often clouds reason.

  5. FYI: The AB109 Realighnment projections were based on current INMATE population. The assumption was that there would be NO parole violations and fewer new crimes. CDCr was stuck between a rock and a hard place (the truth.) CDCr could not include the Parole Violation statistics in their projects and say at the same time that as the counties were going to do such a better job then we are currently doing. So, to sell their scam to the counties they had to drop the parolees from the equation. The estimates follow the county by county inmate population within 5%, but they totally disregarding the 70,000 parolees that are 3-N.

    We (PAAC) told the counties and the CPOs that such was the case, but at the time they still had the $$$$ in their eyes and they choose not to hear us.

    • pacovilla says:

      Kudos to PAAC for those efforts, Todd, but it’s pretty clear the deal was sealed when CCPOA punted on AB109. Had the union opposed it and worked it, the thing would have died. As I have said before, the alternative must have been REALLY BAD to convince CCPOA to allow this to happen…

      • BigDaddy says:

        The alternative had to be really bad, or CCPOA didn’t want it to look like they supported, and paid for, the wrong guy shortly after his election.

        • pacovilla says:

          It’s a clever twist but who thinks Meg would have been the right choice? No, I think my original statement makes a lot more sense.

          • BigDaddy says:

            Maybe your right. One person I work with thinks that CCPOA could see the writing on the wall, which is that we have become to big, and therefore a huge target for budget cuts (ie pay cuts, furloghs, beneift cuts, ect.) He believes CCPOA agreed to this because they believe they can get more benefits in the future for a smaller more streamlined workforce. That and payback for cooperating now.

            • pacovilla says:

              I think the truth is in there somewhere. There’s no question they are going with the program–We can only hope it wasn’t for naught, eh?