Prop. 47 would make our judicial system more just

Prop. 47 could change people’s lives.

By Julien J. Metzmeyer, Staff Writer

Voters have a real chance to change our judicial system by voting Yes on Proposition 47.

If passed into law, it would require a misdemeanor sentence instead of a felony for certain drug and property offenses. In other words, most nonviolent crimes would then be charged as misdemeanors. Among the crimes covered by Prop. 47 are: shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery of checks, bonds, bills, fraud, writing a check with insufficient funds and personal use of most illegal drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, as long the value does not exceed $950.

Inmates already convicted of those crimes would be eligible for consideration for reduced sentencing  except those with prior conviction for serious or violent crimes, and registered sex offenders. This kind of proposal would usually go to the legislature instead of the ballot, which is why Californians should seize this opportunity to improve our criminal-justice system, and in turn, our community.

Karen Long, an organizer for the Community Coalition of Los Angeles, said, “We see this as a social justice. We have been punishing crimes of poverty.”

There are about 40,000 offenders who are convicted of the above crimes annually and it costs about $50,000 a year to feed, clothe and provide medical care for each each of them. That’s roughly five times the less-than $10,000 taxpayers spend on a typical public-school student. Apart from the adjustment to more constructive priorities, the state would save  hundreds of millions of dollars annually. 

Prop. 47 mandates this savings  be put into  the new  Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. This fund would allocate 25 percent for reducing truancy and dropouts among k-12 students in public schools, 10 percent for victim services and 65 percent to support mental health and drug abuse treatment services that are designed to help keep individuals out of prison and jail.  According to the proposal, “The fund would receive appropriations based on savings accrued by the state during the fiscal year, as compared to the previous fiscal year, due to the initiative’s implementation. Estimates range from $150 millions to $250 millions per year.”

In the last decade, Californian spending on  correctional institutions has jumped from less than $5 billion a year to more than $10 billion. California has built 23 prisons since 1980, but only one public university. If Californians want to feel safe, our government should start spending more money on education and spending less money and time on nonviolent crimes. According to the Justice Policy Institute, “states that had higher levels of educational attainment also had crime rates lower than the national average. Putting away offenders who are not a danger to society is the worst thing that our system could do.

“They get into a prison system that is traumatic and causes two out of three to commit another offense once they’re released,” said B. Wayne Hughes Jr.,  founder of the prison fellowship movement to the L.A. Times, “When you go to prison, you have to join up with somebody. If you don’t, you’re at risk. You take orders. And the dangerous criminals are the guys giving the orders.”

Not everyone supports the proposition. One of its opponents, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D), said, “Prop. 47 would reclassify a wide range of crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. This would mean shorter prison sentences for serious crimes like stealing firearms, identity theft and possessing dangerous narcotics such as cocaine and date rape drugs.”

Our Senator Feinstein either has not read the proposition in detail or has simply lied to the voters . It is not true; stealing firearms would still be considered a felony under the potential legislature, the proposition says, ” Possessing a stolen concealed gun remains a felony. Additional felony penalties to prevent felons and gang members from obtaining guns also apply.” as would possession of drugs such as date rape drugs intended to be used to commit a felony.

Similar policies have been successfully implemented in Republican-majority states, such as Texas. Newt Gingrich (R), former Speaker of the House who supports Prop. 47 wrote, “ Texas in 2007 stopped prison expansion plans and instead used those funds for probation and treatment. It has reduced its prison population, closed three facilities and saved billions of dollars, putting a large part of the savings into drug treatment and mental health services. Better yet, Texas’ violent crimes rates are the lowest since 1977.”

If Texas can do it, there’s no doubt that  California can do it, too. Proposition 47 would make our state safer because the law enforcement would then focus on the more dangerous criminals instead of wasting time and taxpayers’ money on petty crimes. We will become a more humane society by no longer looking at those people as criminals but as people who need help.

Endorsers:

Here is the full list of the propositions:

Proposition 1: Would authorize $7 billion in water bonds to fund water quality, supply, treatment, and storage projects, and drinking water protection.

Endorsers:

  • Gov. Jerry Brown (D)
  • US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D)
  • California Democratic Party
  • California Republican Party
  • Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster

Opponents:

  • Rep. Tim Donnelly (R-33)
  • Rep. Wesley Chesbro (D-2)
  • Friends of the River
  • Food and Water Watch
  • Hoopa Valley Tribe

 

Proposition 2: Would create a rainy day fund (use the actual language in the proposition)( It is the actual language). The state would have to save money when times are good (rephrase this) (this is how they describe it in the proposal), pay down debts, and protect schools from cuts.

Endorsers:

Proposition 45: Any rate changes by health insurance companies would have to be approved by The Insurance Commissioner before taking effect. Prohibit health, auto, and homeowners insurers from determining policy eligibility or rates based on lack of prior coverage or credit history.

 

Endorsers:

Endorsers:

Proposition 48: Allowed the North Fork and Wiyot Tribe to build a casino in the Central Valley.

Endorsers:

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