The impact of Proposition 47, nearly four months later

Prior to the passing of Proposition 47 — the piece of legislation that reduced some property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors — it was difficult to know how much of an impact it was going to have on California. All anyone knew was that it was likely going to lead to the release of hundreds of prisoners who could have their sentences commuted because of the legislation.

As some of our more frequent readers may remember, this was a point we made in a December blog post. But now that it’s been nearly four months since the passage of the bill into law, some of our readers may be wondering whether Proposition 47 has had a good or bad effect on California.

If you ask advocates of Proposition 47, they will tell you that the bill has been immensely successful as it has resulted in the release of 2,700 inmates who were serving long sentences for nonviolent crimes. The release of these prisoners has reduced prison populations in many jails and prisons, helping to resolve the problem of overcrowding our state was once well known for.

But opponents of the legislation believe that Proposition 47 could be to blame for the increase in crime throughout California. Even though this is the outcome the lobbying group Police Officers Research Association of California warned of, it’s difficult to say whether Proposition 47 was the sole reason or not.

What can be said is that Proposition 47 is expected to save the state between $100 million and $200 million starting next year. A large portion of that money has already been ear marked for programs that address substance abuse and mental health — two factors many agree are prominent causes of repeat offenses. By addressing the underlying problem of crime, many believe Proposition 47 will show how effective it really is. It just may take a few more years before this becomes more obvious.

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, “California prisons have released 2,700 inmates under Prop. 47,” Melody Gutierrez, March 5, 2015

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