The state Department of Corrections says California's recidivism rate continued to drop in the years before Governor Jerry Brown's realignment law took effect, even though six of every 10 offenders were soon back behind bars.

The report released today says 61 percent of felons released between July 2008 and June 2009 committed new crimes within three years. High as that might be, it's down from 67 percent four years ago, when California had one of the nation's highest recidivism rates.

Officials could not say how the new rate compares with other states but called the trend encouraging. The study tracked former inmates over a three-year period, the latest of which ended in 2011.

That's when Brown's realignment law took effect, sending lower-level offenders to county jails instead of state prisons.