Proposition 47 on today’s ballot would require misdemeanor sentences for certain theft and drug possession crimes, generating savings that would be applied to mental health and drug treatment programs, K-12 education and services for crime victims.
Supporters say the initiative would stop wasting prison space on low-level violent crimes, focus law enforcement resources on violent and serious crimes, help those with felony convictions for low-level nonviolent crimes by reducing barriers to employment, housing and access to assistance programs and professional trades.
Opponents, led by the California Police Chiefs Association, call Proposition 47 “a dangerous and radical package of ill-conceived policies wrapped in a poorly drafted initiative which will endanger Californians,” make 10,000 felons eligible for early release, eliminate automatic felony prosecution for stealing a gun and undermine laws against sex crimes by reducing the penalty for possession of drugs used to facilitate date rape to a misdemeanor.
Proposition 47 would require misdemeanor sentences instead of felony sentences for petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging or writing bad checks when the value or amount involved is $950 or less. It would also require misdemeanor sentences instead of felony sentences for certain drug possession offenses.
A shortcoming of Proposition 47 is that “these offenses can be repeated over and over again virtually every day and still be charged with a single misdemeanor offense with no aggregate,” said Jennifer Jacobs of Californians Against Proposition 47.
Proposition 47 would result in most thefts of handguns being considered a misdemeanor because most are valued at under $950, Jacobs said.
Felony sentences would be allowed for such offenses if the person has a previous conviction for crimes such as rape, murder or child molestation or is a registered sex offender.
Re-sentencing would be required for people serving felony sentences for these offenses unless the court finds an unreasonable public safety risk.
If approved by voters, Proposition 47 would result in net savings to the state criminal justice system that could reach the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually, according to an analysis prepared by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance.
The initiative calls for 65 percent of the savings to be applied to mental health and drug treatment programs, 25 percent to K-12 education and 10 percent to crime victim services.
Bill Lansdowne, a former San Diego Police Department chief, and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, a former assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, wrote Proposition 47 “to create a scenario where our judicial system can prioritize violent crimes,” said Rebecca Slutzky, the campaign manager for the campaign on behalf of Proposition 47.
“Proposition 47 allows us to keep dangerous criminals locked up but move away from locking up people who basically just need help,” Slutzky said.