“Prisons don’t work. They didn’t work in the eighteen-hundreds, they never worked in the nineteen-hundreds and they certainly don’t work in the 21st century,” says Dan Macallair, founder and executive director of the Center on Juvenile Criminal Justice (CJCJ).

Since the late 80s, Dan has called for community supervision instead of incarceration and, in cases where incarceration is necessary, for it to be carried out at the local level. Prisons are large (and often violent) and inmates can be sent to any part of the state. Local county jails have – in San Francisco at least – proved to be more flexible institutions and more successful in providing relevant programs preparing inmates for release back into their community.

Dan and I spoke about San Francisco’s leading role as a county in California willing to take risks and trial new strategies for rehabilitating prisoners. We also note how model programs developed by the CJCJ have been adapted nationwide.

On October 1st, California began its “Realignment” program; prisoners transferred from state prisons into the county jails and local jurisdictions. The move is the result of a Supreme Court ruling in May that ordered California to reduce it’s prison population by approximately 32,000 because the state prisons were overcrowded and unable to provide adequate health care.

In this context, we discuss what this means for California’s criminal justice system and the opportunities for organisations such as CJCJ to introduce progressive solutions that benefit the community, the criminal, the families, the victims and the taxpayers.

Dan notes that never in his experience has he seen a Secretary of the California Department of Corrections advise other jail and prison systems NOT to do what California has done. Matt Cate, the current Secreatary is doing that.

California’s prison boom and prison failures are a national example … for all the wrong reasons.

“I weep when I think it took this Supreme Court, with its conservative bent, to tell liberal California that its prison system is broke.”



Daniel Macallair is the Executive Director and a co-founder of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. His expertise is in the development and analysis of youth and adult correctional policy. He has implemented model community corrections programs and incarceration alternatives throughout the country. In 1993, Mr. Macallair established the Detention Diversion Advocacy Program (DDAP) for serious and chronic youth offenders in San Francisco’s juvenile justice system. This program was cited as an exemplary model by the United States Department of Justice and Harvard University’s Innovations in American Government program. In 1994, Mr. Macallair received a leadership award from the State of Hawaii for his efforts in reforming that state’s juvenile correctional system and developing model community-based reentry programs. In August 2007, Mr. Macallair initiated a technical assistance project to assist California counties in developing model intervention programs for high-end youthful offenders. Mr. Macallair is presently involved in the efforts to reform California’s adult sentencing and parole practices and serves as an advisor to the State’s prestigious Little Hoover Commission.