Report Released: SB 678 Resulted in Lower Recidivism & Improved Public Safety

Report Released: SB 678 Resulted in Lower Recidivism & Improved Public Safety

Sacramento, CA, April 29, 2020 – The California Probation Resource Institute (CaPRI) announced the release of its first commissioned report by respected experts Mia Bird who is a Visiting Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley and Ryken Grattet who is a Professor of Sociology at UC Davis entitled SB 678 Incentive-Based Funding and Evidence-Based Practices Enacted by California Probation Have Resulted in Lower Recidivism Rates and Improved Public Safety.” The report analyzed the impact of SB 678 incentive-based funding on county probation departments, adults under probation’s supervision, and community safety over the past ten years.

SB 678 was legislation passed in 2009 and established, for the first time, incentivized funding for the establishment of best practices in community corrections.  This funding was a permanent state funding source for probation departments to invest in evidence-based supervision and treatment interventions. The report notes, “The legislation aligned county and state incentives toward the shared goals of maintaining public safety, reducing the size of the incarcerated population, and reducing correctional costs. The policy change also inspired greater collaboration among county level agencies and between probation departments and key state agencies, including the Judicial Council of California (JCC) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)…The passage of SB 678 placed California among a small group of states at the forefront of a movement to increase evidence-based practice through incentive-based funding and to reinvest gains into continued improvement.”

The research is consistent with our own experiences that demonstrate how, when properly resourced, probation has a huge impact in the delivery of a humane model for keeping the community safe while providing opportunity for adult probationers to be supervised, supported and treated within our communities,”  said El Dorado County Probation Chief Brian Richart, President of the Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC). “SB 678 was the catalyst that has led to a culture change in California probation resulting in reduced incarceration, reduced crime, and reduced costs. The result has been that many people, for whom prison could have been the result of their offense, have safely and successfully remained in the community where probation has worked to provide them with support, accountability and the tools for change. Today, probation officers are truly a highly-trained understanding professional focused on individual relationships with clients to improve their lives and our communities.”

Our report details a critical tipping point in California’s criminal justice system. The policy change we examine has made significant changes in how we treat low-risk offenders that are benefitting from the new resources available in community-based supervision,” said Mia Bird, lecturer for the Golden School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. “Adult probationers are now less likely to return to prison and incarceration rates have overall declined to reduce the cost of incarceration. We have found that California probation successfully used rehabilitation programs to help adult probationers graduate from their programs successfully, enhancing public safety in communities.” 

The report examined the history and goals of SB 678, and assessed the impacts of this policy change on key criminal justice outcomes. The researchers found a significant reduction in prison revocation correlated with an increased funding to probation departments, a culture-change within probation departments, and a decrease of both property and violent crimes. Specific findings include:

  • SB 678 reduced prison revocations by more than 30% after the second year of implementation. Relative to the baseline rate, prison revocations declined by more than 23% in the first year following the implementation of SB 678. By year two, the legislation had achieved more than a 30% reduction in revocations.
  • SB 678 reduced the prison population by more than 6,000 in the first year of implementation. Within the first year, the prison population was reduced by more than 6,000 inmates and this trend continued into the second year of the program. With the implementation of Realignment, the prison population declined dramatically due to structural changes in eligibility for sentencing and revocation to prison.   
  • SB 678 reduced state correctional expenditures by over $1 Billion since implementation. In just the first year of implementation, SB 678 reduced state prison expenditures by an estimated $179 million. Over the full period, the state is estimated to have saved over $1 billion.
  • SB 678 did not lead to increases in crime rates including property crimes and violent crime rates. In the two years following the implementation of the legislation, property and violent crime rates declined. In later years, crime rates fluctuated. By 2018, property crimes rates were substantially lower and violent crime rates were slightly lower than in 2008, the year prior to the implementation of SB 678.
  • SB 678 transformed the culture of probation departments and led to substantial increases in the use of evidence-based practices. The vast majority of probation departments now use evidence-based practices, including risk and needs assessment (79%), supervision strategies (75%), collaboration with other agencies (75%), and programmatic interventions (61%). The culture of probation departments has shifted from a compliance driven approach to a hybrid approach that strategically balances the priorities of enforcement and rehabilitative interventions. Program capacity has also expanded, with most probation officers reporting that there is sufficient program capacity for evidence-based practice. 

“The research results demonstrate that individualized assessment and care make a difference in the lives of our clients and in the communities we serve,” said Karen Pank, CPOC Executive Director. “The results have been more impactful that we imagined in 2009 and we will continue to advocate for proven strategies that work to end the cycle of crime and improve people’s lives for the long-term.”

The CaPRI Institute was started in the summer of 2019 to fill the current lack of cumulative data and analysis about California probation’s approach as most reports focus on national data which does not always take into account the unique factors of California’s system. Over the past decade, California probation has focused on providing rehabilitative and evidence-based approaches leading the nation in many reforms.

This study was led by respected expert Mia Bird who is a Visiting Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley and Ryken Grattet who is a Professor of Sociology at UC Davis. The report specifically focuses on the history of the policy, the culture shift that took place in probation departments, the new approaches they adopted in managing adult clients, and the outcomes the programming used under SB 678 had on adult clients.

This report was made possible by the partnership with esteemed academic experts from top universities and is available for viewing here. A project of CPOC, the Institute is part of a long-term strategic plan to further the evolution of probation practices. It will continue to provide evaluations of juvenile and adult probation with future studies and work to build further strategic partnerships expanding the availability of related resource tools.

For more information about the California Probation Resource Institute, please go to

Media Contact: Laura Dixon at or 510-384-3020.


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