voters in california on tuesday passed proposition 47, a progressive ballot measure re-classifying six low-level property and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. these offenses include check fraud under $950, shoplifting and theft, as well as personal use of most illegal drugs.
state savings resulting from this initiative are estimated to be $150 million annually. the money will be used to support mental health and drug treatment, school truancy and dropout prevention, victim services, and other programs designed to expand alternatives to incarceration.
this historic vote allows individuals currently serving prison terms for eligible offenses to apply to have their felony sentences reduced to misdemeanors, and persons who have completed their felony sentence to apply to the court to have their conviction changed to a misdemeanor. about 10,000 incarcerated people will be eligible for resentencing under the new law.
since california reached its peak prison population in 2006, prisoner counts have decreased every year. this dramatic change was primarily driven by the state's efforts to comply with a court order to reduce prison overcrowding.
in a landmark 2011 decision, the u.s. supreme court in brown v. plata found the provision of health care in the california prison system to be constitutionally inadequate due to severe overcrowding. the state was required to reduce this figure to 137.5% of design capacity within two years.
also in 2011, california governor jerry brown signed assembly bill 109, commonly referred to as "prison realignment," which shifted to counties the responsibility for monitoring, tracking and incarcerating lower-level offenders previously bound for state prison.
through assembly bill 109, california has made substantial reductions in its prison population, but has yet to reach the court-stipulated level. changes in policy and practice have resulted in higher jail populations, nonetheless, significant numbers of people are now under community service - rather than state prison.
over 40,000 individuals are serving life prison terms in california. most were convicted of serious offenses, but research shows upon release many have low levels of recidivism. long-term sentencing reform works when focused on enacting policies and practices to provide opportunities to distinguish among individual circumstances, accomplishments in prison and degree of risk to public safety.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.