On November 4, 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47 (Prop 47), a groundbreaking law that changed certain low-level, non-violent drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Individuals with a prior felony or who are currently serving time for eligible crimes may qualify to change their record or sentence to a misdemeanor, thereby reducing the length of their sentence and time spent in jail. The Public Policy Institute of California estimates a 50% decline in the number of individuals being held or serving sentences for Prop 47 offenses. The removal of a felony also helps remove barriers to housing, employment, and government programs that restrict access based on one’s criminal background.
One of Proposition 47’s most promising opportunities is the reallocation of corrections funding to community-based prevention and treatment programs. The state expects to generate between $750 million to $1.25 billion from reduced incarceration costs over the next 5 years, of which 65% is earmarked for the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) to administer grant programs for mental health and substance abuse treatment services that keep individuals out of prison and jail. The BSCC has recently authorized an allocation of $103 million for innovative reentry and recidivism prevention programs. Another 25% of Prop 47 savings are allocated to the California Department of Education (CDE) to administer grant programs that aim to reduce truancy and dropout rates among K-12 public schools; and 10% for victim services grants.
Proposition 47 is also expected to produce hundreds of millions of dollars annually in additional cost savings at the local level from reduced incarceration in county jails. These savings will provide public agencies greater flexibility to invest in preventative programs that link children and families to services long before they make contact with the justice system.
Additional information about Proposition 47 can be found on the Californian’s for Safety and Justice Website.