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Criminal Justice Realignment

California’s criminal justice realignment represents one of the most significant changes in criminal justice policy since statehood.

Criminal justice realignment, enacted via the Budget Act of 2011 and various budget trailer bills realigns the responsibility for managing and supervising non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual felony offenders from the state to county governments. As a broad summary:

  • Criminal justice realignment does not change any law or procedure up to the point a sentence is pronounced.
  • Criminal justice realignment changes the place where many felony sentences are served when the defendant is not granted probation. Instead of being sentenced to state prison, defendants convicted of a non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual felony with no prior such offenses serve their time in county jail.
  • Persons released from state prison after serving a prison term for a felony that is not a serious or violent felony, a third strike, a crime where the person is classified as a high risk sex offender, or a crime where the person is required to undergo treatment by the California Department of Mental Health, are now supervised by the county probation department as opposed to state parole. This term of supervision is referred to as ‘Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS)’.
  • Trial courts are now responsible for conducting parole and PRCS revocation hearings.

Court Resources

CourtStory: Stories of Post-Realignment

San Diego Mandatory Supervision Court: A Model for Increasing Public Safety and Reducing Recidivism
San Diego Mandatory Supervision Court is intended to reduce recidivism among offenders serving a “split sentence” on return to the community, thereby increasing public safety Simply stated, a “split sentence” is when an offender serves a portion of a sentence in county jail and the remaining portion in the community.

San Diego Mandatory Supervision Court is a partnership between the San Diego Sheriff Department, the public defender, district attorney, court and probation. Offenders serving a “split sentence” are housed in a special jail facility receive services (i.e., education, anger management, counseling and job readiness/training programs to prepare them for release into the community).

According to Mandatory Supervision Court Judge Desiree Bruce-Lyle, prior to release, probation prepares an offender case plan/pre-release report for the court. To ensure accountability, the public defender, district attorney, probation, the court and a representative from the Sheriff Department agree on the report’s recommendations. Upon release, the offender is supervised by probation, required to appear in court to report on their progress and compliance with their probation conditions.

While San Diego’s Mandatory Supervision Court is new, Judge Bruce-Lyle, observes, anecdotally, that the program appears to be having the desired impact: reducing recidivism and increasing public safety. Even with early success, challenges remain. One challenge is convincing offenders to choose a “split sentence” over doing the complete jail term. By not agreeing to a “split”, they complete the full jail term and avoid supervision by probation and the court. However, data shows when people are released unsupervised back into the community and without services they recidivate at a higher rate than people who are supervised and receiving services.

Judge Bruce–Lyle believes there is a fix for the problem, but she’ll leave that to the state legislature.

Judge Bruce–Lyle discusses San Diego's Mandatory Supervision Court.

Court Supervision of Moderate Risk and Need Offenders in Santa Clara
Prior to realignment, Santa Clara Superior Court established California’s first Reentry Court concentrating on high risk/high need offenders, who are more likely to reoffend or violate conditions of parole or probation. However, not to overlook moderate risk/moderate need offenders, the court developed a “two-judge panel” to monitor this population. The two judges, who arraign cases, monitor those same offenders for compliance with conditions of parole or probation. If, however, an individual requires more supervision, the offender is referred to the reentry court.

According to Judge Stephen Manley, the “two-judge panel” has improved compliance with parole or probation conditions and reduced recidivism among moderate risk -moderate need offenders. He adds that the success of this approach with moderate risk/moderate need offenders allows the reentry court to accept more high risk/high need offenders (severely mentally ill and sex offenders).

Finally, Judge Stephen Manley believes the model could be replicated with similar reduction in recidivism rates.

Judge Stephen Manley discusses Santa Clara’s two-judge panel model:

Ventura’s Pretrial Assessment Program
 Ventura's Presiding Judge Brian Back discusses their recently instituted Pretrial Assessment Program. Simply stated, pretrial programs use pre-screening and assessment tools pretrial to determine an offender’s risk of reoffending and likelihood of appearing in court. While Judge Back would not call the pretrial program innovative, early indications are that it has been successful: freeing up needed jail beds by releasing low-risk offenders, who are more likely to make their court date, and filling beds with high-risk offenders. In a finding consistent with national studies (Pretrial Justice Institute), Ventura’s pretrial program has increased the number of people released pretrial-- straight OR (own recognizance) or OR with conditions--without decreasing public safety. According to Judge Back, ninety-five percent of people released pretrial do not reoffend and appear for their court date. 

Judge Back believes the program success is attributable to the collaboration between justice partners—Sheriff, District Attorney, Public Defender, Probation and the court. When agencies work together the public is better served and safer.
Hear Judge Back discuss the Pretrial Assessment Program 
Note: Telephone interview

Court Realignment Data Collection

Criminal Justice Realignment: Court Realignment Data – Calendar Year 2013

This report includes statistics from calendar year 2013 for each county regarding the dispositions of felonies at sentencing and petitions to revoke probation, postrelease community supervision and mandatory supervision. 

Realignment Data Collection Process
Pursuant to Penal Code § 13155, the Judicial Council must collect data from the trial courts regarding the implementation of the 2011 Criminal Justice Realignment Legislation. This legislative mandate for data collection was included n the FY 12/13 budget trailer bill, giving the branch the authority to specify the data elements (updated 08/2013) to be collected. 

Please note that changes have been made to the realignment data elements. These revised data elements will be collected starting October 1, 2013 for the 4th quarter reporting period. Please review a summary of the changes and contact the Criminal Justice Services Office with questions: 415-865-8994,

Data are due quarterly and should be submitted using the Online Data Reporting Instrument.

Please note the following due dates:
• Quarter 1 2014 (January 1-March 31) data are due April 30, 2014
    • Quarter 2 2014 (April 1-June 30) data are due July 31, 2014
    • Quarter 3 2014 (July 1-September 30) data are due October 31, 2014
    • Quarter 4 2014 (October 1-December 31) data are due January 31, 2015

Information regarding data definitions and submitting data can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions document (updated August 2014).

Forms and Rules of Court Related to Realignment

Criminal Justice Realignment: Petitions for Revocation (PDF, 140 KB)
Item Number: SP13-06

Criminal Justice Realignment: Warrants for Supervised Persons (PDF, 72 KB)
Item Number: SP13-04

Criminal Justice Realignment: Minimum Contents of Parole Revocation Reports (PDF, 132 KB)
Item Number: W13-06

Criminal Justice Realignment: Procedure to Revoke Postrelease Community Supervision (PDF, 443 KB)
Item Number: SP12-07

Criminal Justice Realignment: Intercounty Transfer Procedures (PDF, 168 KB)
Item Number: SP12-08

Criminal Justice Realignment: Felony Waiver and Plea Form (PDF, 196 KB)
Item Number: SPR12-15

Criminal Justice Realignment: Abstract of Judgment Forms (PDF, 414 KB)
Item Number: W12-05

Criminal Justice Realignment: Postrelease Supervision Revocation Procedure (PDF, 72 KB)
Item Number: SP11-14

Frequently Asked Questions

Parole Revocation

FAQs specifically related to the new parole revocation procedures that will be effective July 1. 2013. These will no longer be administrative proceedings under the jurisdiction of the Board of Parole Hearings but will be adversarial judicial proceedings conducted in the superior courts.

Criminal Justice Realignment

An ad hoc steering committee including the chair of the Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee, the chair of the Court Executives Advisory Committee, and other subject matter experts, with the assistance of staff in the JCC’s Office of the General Counsel and the Office of Governmental Affairs, have prepared FAQs regarding the Criminal Justice Realignment Act (Updated: April 2014), which became operative October 1, 2011.

Note: These materials are for informational purposes only and the responses are not to be construed as legal opinion or advice. Questions and responses will be updated on a regular basis. Please check for most recent version.

Join the Criminal Justice Realignment Listserve

The Criminal Justice Realignment listserve ( is a way to receive information about updates to this website and to exchange ideas, knowledge, and best practices specific to the implementation of the 2011 Criminal Justice Realignment Act.

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Sentencing Guidelines and Best-Practices

These resources are independently and individually developed by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Judicial Council of California (JCC). Furthermore, the authors and the Judicial Council do not provide any warranties regarding the currency or accuracy of the information in these works. Users are reminded to check the subsequent history of any case and changes to statutes and Rules of Court cited in the works before relying on them.

Felony Sentencing Following Enactment of 2011 Realignment Legislation (Revised February 2015)
J. Richard Couzens, Judge of the Superior Court of Placer County (Ret.) and
Tricia A. Bigelow, Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division 8

Sentencing: What is appropriate and what is effective (mp3, May, 2013)
J. Richard Couzens, Judge of the Superior Court of Placer County (Ret.) interviewed on Champions of Justice radio show.

Awarding Custody Credits Following Enactment of 2011 Realignment Legislation (Revised December, 2012)
J. Richard Couzens, Judge of the Superior Court of Placer County (Ret.) and
Tricia A. Bigelow, Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division 8

Pretrial Detention & Community Supervision: Best Practices and Resources for California Counties,
Partnership for Community Excellence, September 2012.

Using Offender Risk and Needs Assessment Information at Sentencing, Guidance for Courts from a National Working Group
Pamela M. Casey, Roger K. Warren, and Jennifer K. Elek, National Center for State Courts, 2011.
This new publication provides guidance to help judges and others involved in the sentencing decision understand when and how to incorporate risk and needs assessment information into their decision making process.

Text of the Postrelease Community Supervision Act of 2011
This document provides full text of the Postrelease Community Supervision Act of 2011 (Penal Codes § 3450 et sec.)

Principles of Effective State Sentencing and Corrections Policy
National Conference of State Legislatures, August 2011.
Outlines seven overarching principles for effective state sentencing and corrections policy and identifies key issues and approaches that explain and illustrate the recommendations.

Realignment: Addressing Issues to Promote Its Long-Term Success
Mac Taylor, Legislative Analyst, August 19, 2011

Rethinking the State-Local Relationship: Corrections
Dean Misczynski, Public Policy Institute of California

California Public Safety Realignment Analysis
Garrick Byers, (Editorial Updated Regularly)

Governor Brown Signs Legislation To Improve Public Safety and Empower Local Law Enforcement
Governor Edmund G. Brown, Press Release, April 5, 2011


Criminal Justice Realignment and Related Videos
Evidence-Based Practices: Reducing Recidivism to Increase Public Safety Judge J. Richard Couzens (Ret.) discusses the principles of evidence-based practices, and the role of the courts and probation in implementation.

CourtStory: Stories of Post-Realignment

CourtStory, a news feature of the Criminal Justice Court Services Office (CJCSO), will highlight efforts undertaken by courts, post-realignment. While the stories might feature an individual or a specific court, they are really about how courts are responding to change.



Judge Richard Couzens (Ret.) responds to a few questions including, "How has Realignment impacted the courts?"
more video

Contact Us

For assistance regarding criminal justice realignment, issues and questions may be submitted to:

Judicial Council Criminal Justice Services E-mail:
Phone: 415- 865-8994

Sign up for the Realignment Listserve to receive updates and share ideas.