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Criminal Recidivism Is Target of New State Justice Division

California has a new state Department of Justice division, launched Wednesday, aimed a reducing the number of crimes committed by those released from state prison.

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Kamala Harris talks about a new recidivism initiative at a news conference in Los Angeles on Nov. 20, 2013. Behind her are L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and LA Police Chief Charlie Beck. (Credit: KTLA)

State Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the initiative at a news conference at the Ronald Reagan State Building in downtown Los Angeles, where she was surrounded by law enforcement from across California.

The new Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry, intended to work with counties, was created in part to reduce the costs associated with recidivism.

In recent years, as many as two-thirds of ex-convicts commit another crime within three years of their release from state prison, Harris said.

“A Pew study from 2011 has outlined that California could save $233 million a year in prison costs if we reduced recidivism by 10 percent,” Harris said.

The division will look to existing county programs for best practices, identify grants to help expand those programs, and use technology to examine recidivism data and trends more effectively, according to the Department of Justice.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey celebrated the division’s creation in statement released by the Department of Justice.  

“The attorney general’s initiative will provide local prosecutors with the accurate data we need to determine realignment’s real impact on public safety,” Lacey said. “I look forward to working with other prosecutors in developing effective diversion programs for nonviolent offenders and seeking funds to expand alternative sentencing courts.”

One tool the new division will employ is SmartJustice, a database and “analytical tool” that examine offenders and recidivism risk factors, according to the Department of Justice news release.

The division will be funded though existing state Department of Justice funding.

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