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What is California's Proposition 47?

On behalf of Kenneth Krebs of Law Offices of Karlstrom & Krebs posted in Drug Charges on Friday, September 26, 2014.

California's problems with prison overcrowding have been widely reported on and publicized. While steps implemented to reduce the state's prisons populations have been marginally successful, a measure set to be voted on this fall would likely have a much more significant and positive impact.

This November, California residents will vote on Proposition 47 a measure that would reduce convictions and sentencing terms for certain nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. If Prop. 47 passes, the sentences of thousands of individuals in the state would be impacted and reduced. Felony convictions require that an individual be sentenced to serve at least one year in prison, whereas individuals convicted of misdemeanors typically serve far less or no time at all in jail and are instead forced to pay fines and attend educational classes.

Those in favor of Prop. 47 argue that lengthy prison sentences do nothing to help or rehabilitate individuals convicted of nonviolent property or drug crimes. Additionally, proponents point to the expected cost-savings benefits and revenue generated for much-needed state education and social programs.

Those opposed to the measure cite the release of what they contend are dangerous criminals into California’s communities. Concerns have also been raised by local law enforcement officials who argue local jails will become overcrowded as a result of an increase in misdemeanor charges.

A recent poll by the non-partisan group The Field Poll revealed that 57 percent of California voters plan to vote yes on the measure and only 24 said they plan to vote no. These results are encouraging as California attempts to explore alternative and reduced sentencing measures as a means to shrink prison populations and help individuals turn their lives around.

Source: League of Women Voters of California, "Proposition 47: Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties," 2014