California has continuously seen the ripple effects since the passage of Proposition 47 by voters on November 4, 2014. Many who were sentenced under the previous felony and misdemeanor categorization system have petitioned the California courts and been resentenced, though thousands of cases are still pending as courts struggle to meet the overwhelming demand.
Proposition 47 and crime rates
Some law enforcement officials, including the LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, have been quick to indicate an increase in crime rates and blame it on Proposition 47 (link), but the full scope of the affects has yet to be seen. Critics say that the new sentencing requirements are making some people less interested in rehabilitation programs, especially for drug addiction, since drug possession is now a misdemeanor instead of a felony charge.
Perhaps people should wait a few years to draw conclusions about the long-term affects of Proposition 47—it’s still so fresh in people’s minds that it can be hard to be objective. Plus it hasn’t even been a year since it was implemented.
There are many additional factors that could be impacting the crime rate. This includes legalization of marijuana, racial tensions, and public opinion concerning the police. A recent Truth-Out.org article also points out that the Los Angeles Police Department recently changed how it classifies violence and property crimes, which may be having an impact on the increase the department reports.
Prison overcrowding update
One of the main reasons Proposition 47 came into existence and passed voters is because of the imperative to reduce prison overcrowding. It’s a billion-dollar system that seems to keep growing exponentially, with no decrease in crime rates in sight. This initiative was designed to ease the burden on overcrowded prisons, but it’s still definitely a major problem in California. Proposition 47 has successfully lead to the release of hundreds of people from California jails, and thousands of cases are still pending, but overcrowding is still an issue weighing on lawmakers and voters’ minds.
So while Proposition 47 is helping to stop mass incarceration, it must be seen as a first step—not the only step—to stop prison overcrowding from continuing to get worse.
Consequences for arrestees
Those who are arrested for the crimes affected by Proposition 47, such as petty theft and drug possession, are still being dramatically affected. While many are grateful they don’t have to pay exorbitant fines, serve prison sentences, or deal with long probation terms, they still struggle from having misdemeanor charges on their permanent records. Having a misdemeanor charge impacts people’s ability to obtain and retain employment, ability to apply for public benefits, immigration status, and so much more. Though they probably won’t have to serve any prison time, their life prospects are still definitely diminished.
Looking to the future
Proposition 47 left out huge sections of the prison population, many of whom are forced to be in prison for lengthy sentences. Even certain nonviolent offenses are still given prison time in California. While California voters and lawmakers have definitely made a progressive step towards prison reform with the passage of Proposition 47, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Crime rates nationwide are continuing to decrease, the incarceration epidemic continues to grow, and public sentiment on this subject is really shifting from a policy of “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” to a genuinely compassionate rehabilitation effort. California is leading the way, but the fight isn’t even close to over yet.
Want more info about Proposition 47?
If you or a loved one has a case that could be affected by Proposition 47, check out the Proposition 47 blogs on this website here, here, here, and here. Also schedule a free in-person consultation with Southern California’s best Proposition 47 attorney, Dan Chambers. You’ll be able to ask him questions about Proposition 47 and your case, receive impeccable legal advice, and get Southern California’s most successful lawyer on your case.
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