This November, California voters will have an opportunity to reverse the state’s notorious over-incarceration and overcharging of low-level, nonviolent offenders, according to diverse coalitions. Proposition 47, referred to as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, is a California measure intended to reduce prison populations.
ColorofChange.org, the largest online civil rights organization, has launched a campaign calling on its nearly 100,000 California members. The campaign is expected to give tens of thousands of Californians hope, opportunity, and the clinical services they need to stay out of prison.
By approving Prop 47, voters will reclassify six non-violent offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, meaning more non-violent offenders would be diverted to probation and treatment in the community, a move that would finally bring the state into compliance with the 2011 federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding, says Rashad Robinson, executive editor of ColorofChange.org.
“California’s $10 billion prison budget is larger than the entire state budget of 12 other states. This horrifying reality underscores the skewed priorities of state lawmakers and why it’s critical for voters to reject the state’s current costly and ineffective incarceration-only policies,” he adds. “California has been targeted under federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding since 2011, but lawmakers have lacked the political courage to enact a solution bold enough to resolve the state’s prison crisis.”
California currently holds some of the most stringent “three-strikes” sentencing laws in the nation, which sends repeat felons to prison for as much as 25 years to life, often for minor violations. According to the Legislative Analysts’ Office, the new policy could save the overall criminal justice system hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Under Prop 47, roughly $1 billion would be redirected in substance abuse and mental health treatment programs, as well as in victim services and dropout prevention programs for K-12 public school students.
ColorOfChange.org reports that 40,000 mostly black Californians are convicted of low-level, non-violent crimes annually. These prisoners are often warehoused in dangerous, inhumane state prisons and then denied basic human rights and services upon release.
According to recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California, 62% of California voters already support the proposition. Various groups and individuals have come out in support of Prop 47, including rap mogul Jay Z , the AFL-CIO, and the California Catholic Conference of Bishops. Reportedly Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Napster developer and venture capitalist Sean Parker made significant monetary contributions in support of Prop 47.