Los Angeles, CA- California voters will have the opportunity to vote for new legislation that would reduce some charges for criminal offenders and give relief to the state’s prison overcrowding conundrum.
Supporters of the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” or Proposition 47 would reduce felony crimes such as drug possession, petty theft, shoplifting, forgery and writing bad checks to misdemeanors. It would also reduce mandatory incarceration for convictions of these crimes from three years to one year, the Los Angeles Times reported.
People with criminal records, sex offenses or those convicted of offenses costing more than $950 would not be eligible for reduced charges or sentencing. If passed, nearly 40,000 offenders would be eligible for reduced charges, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Proposition would also allow some convicted offenders who are currently incarcerated to petition for resentencing and possible release including those individuals with three strikes. This would apply to approximately 7,000 prisoners.
Savings from incarceration would be used to expand mental health and drug rehabilitation services for offenders and develop programs to curtail school truancy and encourage students to stay in school. Some of the funds would also go into the state’s victim compensation fund.
Proponents of the measure say that approval of Proposition 47 would help lift budgetary constraints for cities and counties throughout the state. They believe that the states tougher stance on criminal offenders has led to high incarceration, and has done nothing to solve the state’s high recidivism rates.
Lenore Anderson, head of non-profit think tank, Californians for Safety and Justice, told the Times “We’re trying to address over-reliance on incarceration, over-reliance on prison.”
Proposition 47 has support from politically heavy-hitters including Newt Gingrich, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings and rapper Jay-Z, according to the Times.
But the legislation has its fair share of critics who say that decreasing the severity and consequences would not curtail crime, and the savings gained from reducing the prison population is a pittance in a state the size of California.
One major sticking points for opponents to Proposition 47 is the provision that allows a reduction in charges involving thefts of $950 of less. Former San Diego Police Chief told the Los Angeles Times that the law would allow people accused of stealing a handgun, many of which are priced under the $950 threshold, to be charged with a misdemeanor.
This, proponents say is true, but they also said under the penal code there are other felony gun-related charges prosecutors could utilize to adequately charge offenders.
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