The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in California

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in California

This page was updated on August 2017, to reflect progress in the state. 


In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that required California to reduce crowding in its prison system. In response, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 109, Public Safety Realignment, which was intended to reduce both prison crowding and California’s overall incarceration rate. A.B. 109 transferred responsibility for offenders who committed lower-level felonies as well as most parole violators from the state to the counties. These measures reduced the prison population by about 25,000 through attrition.

To help identify the most effective and cost-beneficial adult criminal justice programs, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative partnered with select California counties to pilot the approach at the local government level in 2013.

Building on this successful effort, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) partnered with Results First in January 2016 to incorporate this approach into the state’s adult criminal justice budget and policymaking process. The CDCR secretary signed a letter of support that expressed the department’s commitment to “providing evidence-based programming” in order to “reduce recidivism and improve outcomes.” It plans to integrate this approach into the agency’s “established and future business requirements” by systematically making decisions based on evidence for agency-run corrections programs.


The CDCR’s Office of Research, with assistance from the Division of Rehabilitative Programs, will coordinate with the various divisions within the department to compile an inventory of the state’s prison and parole programming and populate the state-specific cost-benefit model for those corrections programs.

Next steps

The CDCR aims to complete its program inventory and the adult criminal justice component of the cost-benefit model in order to use its analysis to inform future corrections-related budget and policy decisions.

In partnership with the California State Association of Counties, the Results First team will also continue to engage with other counties in the state.