"The problem here is that this measure goes much too far and makes California a more dangerous place to live—and promises programs funded from the savings accrued on the backs of Californians living in a more dangerous society, and who may pay for the programs by becoming victims of crime."
“Sentencing reform” in California has taken unexpected and polarizing forms in recent years. Governor Brown’s AB 109 Realignment alone has caused California criminal justice to look much different now than in prior years. Offenses that once opened recalcitrant probationers or other recidivists to a state prison sentence are now punished, at most, by a county jail sentence.
With these changes have come local opportunities to address recidivism. Our local Community Corrections Partnership (CCP), for example, has worked unitedly and effectively to provide tools to those convicted of crimes to assist them in a law-abiding lifestyle. Our local courts also continue to provide rehabilitation to non-violent offenders—especially the drug addicted offenders who have Proposition 36 (treatment instead of incarceration for possession of drugs for individual use) dispositions and Drug Court oversight to help them move forward.
Into this environment, where counties continue to seek a way forward in the post-Realignment world, comes Proposition 47. Disingenuously named the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” the Act would do the opposite by releasing thousands of felons from prison while decreasing penalties for crimes like gun theft, burglary, possession of date rape drugs, and identity theft.
Prop 47’s title comes from the ploy written into it whereby illusory savings from the release of state inmates will be earmarked for worthy purposes, things that California should already be doing. The problem here is that this measure goes much too far and makes California a more dangerous place to live—and promises programs funded from the savings accrued on the backs of Californians living in a more dangerous society, and who may pay for the programs by becoming victims of crime.
I strongly oppose Proposition 47 and ask you to render a “no” vote for the following reasons:
1. California businesses could be devastated. By reducing the penalty for commercial burglary to a misdemeanor (rather than a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor) it declares open season on retail businesses. There would be virtually no ‘cost of doing business’ for thieves in a post-Realignment California where virtually no misdemeanors carry actual jail time.
2. Current felons would be unsupervised. More than 40,000 of the 202,000 felony convictions in California in 2012 were for crimes that would no longer be felonies under Prop 47. In Siskiyou County, as in most others, they would not be supervised by a probation officer or be subject to programs designed for those on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS).
3. Local Courts would be overburdened. If passed Prop 47 would take effect this Wednesday, and would permit felons serving sentences for these offenses to petition local courts for resentencing under the new rules. This would include over 7,000 inmates who are currently serving time.
4. Serious crimes are on the chopping block. Aside from burglary, check forgery, grand theft and possession of stolen property under $950, possession of hard drugs would be straight misdemeanors. The list also includes identity theft crimes and theft of firearms. Criminals don’t steal firearms to add to their collections. They steal them to commit crimes.
5. Treatment opportunities for addicted convicts would be ravaged. Perhaps most fundamentally, we currently offer treatment to many offenders willing to change their lives—and are often able to motivate them with punishment if they do not follow through. Many excellent programs have been developed locally after Realignment was passed in 2011, and many local success stories have resulted. Prop 47 threatens all of this progress since a large class of people most amenable to treatment will not qualify because the level of their crimes would be artificially reduced under Prop 47. More alarmingly, why would any convict be serious about drug treatment or Drug Court when there is no punishment for any level of failure or refusal? They wouldn’t.
Prop 47 is an ill-conceived, completely unnecessary, and dangerous Proposition seeking to ride the wave of anti-recidivism sentiment. While principles of rehabilitation and treatment are essential to a healthy state, Californians of all parties and backgrounds should reject this dangerous measure. It would fail us on all fronts. Please vote “no.”