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Proposition 47: Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act

Posted by Sara Cooper | Jun 13, 2023 | 0 Comments

What is the prop intended for?

Proposition 47 was enacted into legislation in 3024 by the state of California and reduces certain felonies into misdemeanors. Those felonies would include nonviolent property (theft under 950 dollars) and drug-related crimes, ones that have made the California prison system a possible profit. Prop 47 does not prohibit however, law enforcement to detain a pretrial defendant if they are a risk of themselves, are intoxicated, have an outstanding warrant, or are deemed at-risk to not appear in court.

What is the precedence of the prop?

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Plata ordered California to reduce drastically and rapidly its inmate population.[2] The case arose from consolidated prisoner class actions in which a federal court had ordered California to reduce its prison population by 137.5 percent of design capacity because overcrowding had caused woefully deficient medical care according to Waxman from Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy. Prison overcrowding in California not only made it difficult for inmates to receive medical treatment efficiently and made an increase in violence within facilities, but it contributes to recidivism for low-crime offenses. With this legislation that contributes to prison population reduction, its goal is to lower recidivism rates as California being one of the top states for the most prisons.

What are the opinions for Prop 47?

Drug court enrollment programs have been rescinded tremendously since the implementation of Prop 47, leaving probation officers and judges emptyhanded. These 18-month long commitments when convicted of a drug offense (offense(s) that apply under Proposition 47) are now being switched out by receiving lower sentences. According to Jefferson Public Radio, A 2020 paper from the New York-based Center for Court Innovation surveyed California drug courts after the passage of Prop. 47 and found participation was down statewide by 67% between 2014 and 2018. Drug courts or “collaborative justice courts” also are not limited to DUI courts, mental health courts, and other courts that serve vulnerable communities and their legal purposes. Since these programs are not as act as pre-reform of Prop 47, their funding has decreased in the past almost decade, revealing back to the Assembly Bill 109 passed in 2011 where state funding was taken away for drug courts. The argument to support these drug courts was that more treatment was offered due to the state budget's assistance in assisting these courts and their programs. Now, many agencies work independently instead of in a collaborative agreement.

Implementation and Effects of the proposition:

  • According to the Public Policy Institute of California, Prop 47 also led to notable decreases in racial/ethnic disparities in arrests and bookings. The African American–white arrest rate gap narrowed by about 5.9 percent, while the African American–white booking rate gap shrank by about 8.2 percent. Prop 47 has not meaningfully changed the disparities in arrest and booking rates between Latinos and whites, which are still only a small fraction of the African American–white gap.
  • 400,000 petitions have so far been filed under the proposition. This impacted how law enforcement has approached low-level offenses. Some officers just give citations and give them a court date and some do not even bother to interact with the suspected person(s).
  • Recidivism rates decreased due to Proposition 47. Using data from 12 California counties, we find that among individuals released after serving sentences for Proposition 47 offenses, the two-year rearrest rate was 70.8 percent, 1.8 percentage points lower than for similar individuals released before the reform. The two-year reconviction rate for individuals released under Proposition 47 was 46.0 percent, 3.1 percentage points lower than their pre-reform counterparts, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
  • In its 2016 study, the Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) found that cities in counties with the greatest reductions in total and felony jail populations under Prop. 47 had smallerincreases in crime than cities in counties with the smallest reductions in jail populations.[27] (mentioned by the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy).

What does this mean for future prison reform?

Currently, some legislators and several police departments and agencies are working on repealing Prop 47. They believe that this statute was in a mistake of itself and has reverted the progress made in drug recovery and regulated assistance that the courts mandate, even while being imprisoned. For example, the Fresno Sheriff's Department reported that their arrests for low-level offenses went up by 77% in that period, while their Los Angeles counterpart reported an increase in low-level arrests of just 10%. In contrast, the Sacramento Sheriff's Department reported that arrests for the same offenses were actually down by 43% according to ACLU's 2015 report on Proposition 47.

For Senator Smallwood-Cuevas, she has introduced SB 749 that would replace the proposition but still gives allowance of reclassification of felonies to misdemeanors.

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