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Proposition 47 cited as evidence that criminal law reform works

California stands out starkly from most other states when incarceration-linked numbers are crunched by statisticians and demographers.

Reportedly, the state has reduced its prison population in recent years by more than 20%. That is a startling reduction, given the still-lingering effects of "tough-on-crime policies" that continue to inform sentencing guidelines and outcomes across large pockets of the country.

A recent national media piece spotlights the Proposition 47 criminal law reforms that state voters endorsed in 2014. The applied details from that initiative have promoted material adjustments in charging guidelines. Specifically, notes the article, they have "helped shrink the disparity in the criminal-justice system between blacks and whites."

And especially in San Francisco and across the Bay Area, where a local government study notes felony drug arrests for black defendants have dropped impressively in Prop 47's wake. Moreover, the gap in sentencing outcomes between blacks and whites has also closed considerably.

Analysts state that there are two main catalysts for that, namely these:

  • Many drug offenses formerly classified as felonies are now termed misdemeanors
  • Near doubling of the threshold money amount required to raise select theft offenses from misdemeanors to felonies

Young black males have historically been prosecuted for drug crimes at a higher rate than white defendants. Long lock-ups at a higher rate unsurprisingly resulted when far more of those offenses yielded felony outcomes.

California reformers are encouraged, but they know that more progress is needed to render charging outcomes and sentence dispositions more equitable.

Questions or concerns regarding a drug charge or other criminal law matter in the Bay Area can be directed to an experienced Alameda County criminal defense attorney.

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