Recent coverage of California's Proposition 47 has left a confusing image in some people's minds. An article in the Washington Post highlighted the life of one man who has been in and out of jail multiple times over the last few months, only to be released for misdemeanor offenses.
Under Prop 47, six low-level offenses were reduced to misdemeanors in California to help limit incarceration for minor crimes and reduce jail crowding. While the article attributes his in and out jail habits to the new change in policy, law enforcement individuals note that repeated drug offenders come in and out of the system is actually a common issue that has existed prior to any changes.
What Consequences Do Offenders Face Now?
When an individual is charged with one of these offenses, such as possession of a small amount of drugs, they instead are given a citation. This often means they will face less than a year in jail, probation, and a few hundred dollars in fines. In some cases, they may even be released with just a mark on their record and minimal consequences.
Though some see this is a dangerous practice of letting petty criminals out of jail with no true punishment, 60% of California voters agreed that this was the best step for the state. There may always be exceptions to the policy and people that try to exploit it, but a majority of individuals affected by Prop 47 now have the chance to turn their lives around.
How Prop 47 Has Helped Countless Lives
While many have seen this as too much leniency for drug users and thieves, others see the more positive impact Prop 47 has had since it was passed last year. When drug possession and nonviolent
thefts were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, it led to the release of more than 3,700 state prison inmates, giving individuals a second chance and clearing up system capacity for more serious offenders. Proposition 47 has been credited with reducing crowding in jails, as well as limiting the release of higher-risk individuals. There has even been a downturn in crime in San Diego. Just last year, the crime rate fell by 13.5%.
There are countless stories of how the reduction of these nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors has changed lives. Former drug addicts who have not committed a crime in decades can now move on with their lives and embrace a brighter future. Grandparents with a record from an early age can now gain custody of their grandchild. No matter the story, it is clear that Prop 47 has truly led to good in California communities and will continue to do so.
How law enforcement handles repeat offenders is up to them, as they still have the choice to keep certain offenders in jail. At the end of the day, Prop 47 gives our justice system the freedom to focus on the dangerous individuals and give those who made mistakes a chance at a better future.
If you or a loved one has been arrested and you believe your crime should be a misdemeanor that falls under Prop 47, you need to retain counsel to ensure your case is handled fairly. We can fight to make sure your charges are dropped or reduced to the lowest possible offense.