To end felony sentencing for drug possession and petty theft crimes
By Ernie McCray
Editor Note: This article was originally posted in September. The community mobilization meeting that Ernie refers to has already occurred. The analysis of Prop 47 is further down on the page.
I would like to invite readers to a Community Mobilization Meeting to hear what can be done to help pass Proposition 47 in November.
The meeting is on Thursday, September 4th, 6-8 pm
Sherman Heights Community Center
2258 Island Ave, San Diego, CA 92102
RSVP to Margaret (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If “Yes on 47” passes, California will be the first state to end felony sentencing for drug possession and petty theft crimes. This would permanently reduce incarcerations and shift one billion dollars, over the next five years, from state corrections to K-12 school programs and mental health and drug treatment. I love the sound of that. And it’s about time we get our minds off punishing people and focus on helping them become better human beings.
Details of the Act:
- – Stops prison incarceration for nonviolent crimes: Six common petty drug and theft crimes will be reclassified from felonies to simple misdemeanors. This means no one, juveniles or adults, will serve prison time for these offenses and thousands of people every year will avoid the collateral consequences of having a felony record. Nothing like giving folks a chance.
- – Nearly 20,000 people eligible for release in first year: Prop. 47 authorizes re-sentencing for anyone who is currently incarcerated in prison or jail for these offenses. Rough estimates indicate that abut 10,000 people in state prison and 10,000 in county jails will likely be eligible for release. Most are African American and Latino men. This, to me, seems like an approach to defeating the “New Jim Crow,” the mass incarceration of black youth.
- – Tens of thousands fewer eligible for prison each year: Incarceration reductions will continue moving forward. Each year, somewhere between 40 and 60,000 people are convicted of the listed offenses. These will no longer be prison-eligible felonies which means, perhaps, we can put a crimp into the massive prison-industrial-complex that greedy, coldhearted capitalists have brought into our society for profit.
- – Hundreds of thousands of Californians will be able to fix their records: Prop. 47 authorizes any individual with prior felony convictions for the petty drug and theft crimes, reclassified as misdemeanors, to remove the felony from their record, eliminating the barriers to jobs, housing, student loans, and public assistance.
- – Reallocates hundreds of millions of dollars from prisons to school programs and treatment: California counties will save hundreds of millions annually through reduced jail populations and court costs. State prison reductions will generate between $750 million to $1.25 billion in savings over the next five years alone. Those state savings will be shifted into K-12 schools (25%), victim services (10%) and mental health and drug treatment (65%). Makes so much sense.
- – Protects public safety: For those who are thinking “Oh, oh, we’re going to have dangerous people populating our streets,” Prop.47 does not apply to anyone with a prior violent felony conviction for crimes such as rape, murder, and child molestation. Prisoners may only be released under the initiative if they demonstrate that they are no longer a threat to public safety. Prop.47 focuses law enforcement resources on violent and serious crimes, and directs savings to programs that can stop the cycle of crime. An idea way overdue.
I hope as many people as possible can come to Sherman Heights Community Center to help make Proposition 47 a big success in California. It’s opportunities like this that enable us to create a better world.
To learn more, visit safetyandschools.com