On November 4, 2014, California voted on Proposition 47: The Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative. The goal of this proposition was simple: to reduce the extreme overcrowding of California’s prison system and direct the savings to multiple public wellness programs. Supporters of the bill, including (but not limited to) Rand Paul and the California Democratic Party, claimed it would reduce prison spending and redirect the hundreds of millions of dollars saved to public establishments by releasing nonviolent inmates with no past history of violent crimes, such as murder, robbery and rape. This goal would be completed by “changing low-level nonviolent crimes such as simple drug possession and petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors.” [California General Election Voter Guide November 2014] In doing so, less money would be spent on retaining inmates and instead put towards public K-12 schooling, providing assistance to the victims of crime, and treatment for the drug addicts and the mentally ill. Ideally, these programs would stop the cycle of crime by focusing on education and rehabilitation rather than retention. The proposition’s opposition, however, insisted the release of inmates and reclassification of some felonies would lead to a massive spike in crime. Opposition consisted primarily of “law enforcement, business leaders, and crime-victim advocates,” and in turn claimed Proposition 47 would reclassify too many felonies they deemed important, as well as releasing addicts without the proper structure to recover. [California General Election Voter Guide November 2014] Voters passed Proposition 47, “and in the first year of realignment, the prison population dropped by more than 25,000 inmates.” [Bird, Mia, et al. “How Has Proposition 47 Affected California’s Jail Population?” p 4.] The implementation of this proposition has affected California and Redlands, in ways both positive and negative.
Upon the release of inmates, the reduction in the overcrowded prison population allowed the state to “comply with a federal court order that found overcrowded prison conditions in California violated constitutional standards.” The state’s daily average jail population was also reduced by about 8,000 people. [Ulloa, Jazmine. “Prop. 47 Got Thousands out of Prison. Now, $103 Million in Savings Will Go towards Keeping Them Out.”] By its supporters, the newly instated proposition was seen as being vastly successful. Since the non violent inmates were being given chances to start anew, cell space was being freed up for the more dangerous criminals who proved to be a larger threat to society. With multiple felonies being downsized, more misdemeanors were being issued, lessening the cost of police investigations and attributing to the sum of total money saved. [Beale, Andrew. “Study Finds No Correlation between Proposition 47 Releases and Crime Rates.” Oakland North, 10ADAD, 2016] Alongside freeing up cells in jails and prisons, Proposition 47 is still in the process of funding nonprofits and government-established rehabilitation programs to help former inmates reintegrate into their communities and create youth diversion programs. The total amount of money to be distributed is 103 million dollars which will take place over three year; from 2017 to 2020. [Ulloa] In addition to second chances for adult felons, juvenile crime dropped. In fact, it’s at its lowest rate since the 50’s, when the statistics were first collected. A key component behind this current decrease may be the “higher educational attainment” of the youth. [Beale]
Although there are positive affects from Proposition 47, quite a few negative effects have risen as well. Even though studies conducted at UC Irvine haven’t found any proof of Proposition 47 increasing violent crimes across the state, The Public Policy Institute of California discovered that crime rates in cities such as “San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities across Southern California, saw double digit percent increases in violent crimes in 2016.” [La Jeunesse, William. “Did California prison reform lead to an increase in crime?” Fox News, FOX News Network, 17 Apr. 2017 [Video File] This could be a result of a few different things. One of reclassified felonies was the theft of a handgun valued at less than 950$. [Voter Guide] This means that the stealing of a pistol priced at less than 950$ is a misdemeanor, a minor wrongdoing. For clarity “almost all handguns retail for well below 950$,” which makes it difficult for most of those who steal them to be faced with serious prison time.[Voter’s Guide]
Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys referred to the ten days in jail to those who committed a misdemeanor a “slap on the wrist, [it] has no effect.” [La Jeunesse] A notable example of the reduced sentence time allowing further harm by criminals who would’ve previously been considered felons, is the case of Michael Mejia. Mejia’s court records showed him going in and out of prison multiple times between 2010 and 2016 for “various charges including robbery and grand theft auto.” [La Jeunesse] After being released in 2016, he violated his probation four times [La Jeunesse] Before the passing of Proposition 47, this would’ve meant a return to prison, but under the new law he received a minor incarceration – ten days in a county jail. [La Jeunesse] A few days after his release, Mejia killed Whittier police officer Keith Boyer, his own cousin, and injured another officer. [La Jeunesse] This is just one instance of an inmate who would’ve been imprisoned killing an officer, and according to the same article, there had been two similar cases in Los Angeles and two in Palm Springs. Because of cases like this, Jeunesse states the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors blames Proposition 47 for ‘creating “additional and considerable” threats to law enforcement.’
In November of 2016, California passed Proposition 57, which essentially adds on to 47 by changing further policies and allowing further sentence reductions. Crime rates for 2016 have yet to be released, but based off the articles cited, I speculate that like most policy changes, there will be both positives and negatives. Ulloa reported on the story of Vonya Quarles, who lived on the streets as a child and managed to get off the streets thanks to community centers similar to the ones Proposition 47 aims to fund with its 103 million dollars. However, there will likely also be cases that resonate more closely with to the killing of Officer Boyer. Regardless, it seems as though the state of California will continue with these progressive changes focused on the rehabilitation of its population.
[Beale, Andrew. “Study Finds No Correlation between Proposition 47 Releases and Crime Rates.” Oakland North, 10ADAD, 2016, oaklandnorth.net/2016/10/13/study-finds-no-correlation-between-proposition-47-releases-and-crime-rates/.
This article claims there is no connection between the release of inmates through Proposition 47 and a statewide increase in crime. It states one year isn’t enough time to see the policy’s affect on crime. It contains links to FBI statistics.]
[Bird, Mia, et al. “How Has Proposition 47 Affected California’s Jail Population?” Public Policy Institute of California, Mar. 2016, pp. 1–17.
This article is in the form of a PDF, and covers the affects of the passing of Proposition 47 on the jail system. It contains information and charts regarding the initial release of inmates, decline in number of convictions and capacity of releases.]
[California General Election Official Voter Information Guide November 2014, “Prop 47 Analysis by the Legislative Analyst,” accessed September 8, 2014
This website acted as a guide for California voters in 2014. It hosts information about all propositions from the year. The specific webpage covered Prop 47, providing information on every aspect.]
[“Crime rate in Redlands, California (CA): murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, thefts, auto thefts, arson, law enforcement employees, police officers, crime map.” Crime in Redlands, California (CA): murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, thefts, auto thefts, arson, law enforcement employees, police officers, crime map, www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Redlands-California.html.
This website collects data from the FBI’s crime index beginning in 2001 with the last available data being from 2015. It shows a steady increase in crime over the years. A large increase in crime is noticeable from 2014 to 2015, the latter being the year Prop 47 went into effect.]
[La Jeunesse, William. “Did California prison reform lead to an increase in crime?” Fox News, FOX News Network, 17 Apr. 2017 [Video File,]
The video embedded in this article discusses the downsides to the passing of Proposition 47. A reporter informs about a crime spike of over 50% in certain California cities. The Chief of the LAPD speaks out against the proposition. The story of an officer killed by a repeat offender is told. An unnamed man says the link between incarceration and crime is not as strong as people are led to believe.]
[Ulloa, Jazmine. “Prop. 47 Got Thousands out of Prison. Now, $103 Million in Savings Will Go towards Keeping Them Out.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 29 Mar. 2017, www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-prop-47-grant-awards-20170329-htmlstory.html.
This article begins with discussing the promises of Proposition 47, and whether or not they were met. It touches on some unforeseen consequences of the Proposition as well, such as rising crime rates in certain areas and flaws in the distribution of funds. Informative as to how Jerry Brown gained grants for the program.]