A year ago, California voters passed Proposition 47, an initiative that re-classified certain low-level, non-violent felonies such as drug possession, petty theft, shoplifting, forging or writing bad checks, and stolen property, as misdemeanors. Now, police and prosecutors are linking increases in crime to the proposition. While it is true that there has been an increase in crime, it does not necessarily mean that the proposition is the cause of it.
Proposition 47 has a lot of good points and they simply cannot be ignored. Overcrowding in jails is one of the key problems that California is going through. It also exemplifies the fact that we have a broken prison system.
Proposition 47 is helping to fix this problem. And in just a year we can already see some tremendous changes. Jail populations have decreased by 11 percent, roughly by 8,600 people, according to the Sacramento Bee. This decrease in jail population could save the state about $93.4 million a year and counties $203 million a year, according to KPBS.
Savings can then be put to good use. The reduced incarceration costs, for example, could then be spent on school truancy and dropout prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and victim services.
Proposition 47 was also meant to help low-level offenders find housing and work after release.
“This law gives the ability for people to turn their life around,” said Brendon Woods, a public defender for Alameda County, told Okland North. He had a previous client who shoplifted. “This woman once had a drug addiction and was sentenced to county jail for stealing a sandwich from Walgreens,” Woods said. “After serving her time in prison, she went to rehab for her drug addiction but still could not find a job with a felony on her record.” Under proposition 47, she was able to clear her record and start a new life. That client is now an intern at his office.
Going back to the increase of crime, apparently California is not the only state experiencing it. Cities such as Milwaukee, St. Louis, Baltimore, Washington, New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, New York, and Philadelphia, also saw increases in crime in the past year.
If these cities that are not affected by Proposition 47 at all are experiencing increases in crime, then the problem does not solely lie in California but the whole nation itself.
The argument that crimes are increasing because of proposition 47 can be put to rest simply because there is no data that supports it. If there is no evidence, then why keep on blaming the proposition?
Proposition 47 is doing its job by decreasing the jail population and saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars. It has only been a year since it was passed. Good changes have been made but it’s still too early to tell if the increase in crime has something to do with the proposition.
“Crime trends fluctuate frequently and widely and it is challenging to pinpoint specific causes,” the Public Policy Institute of California posted on Friday. “There is no evidence that realignment led to more violent crime, and the only uptick that can be attributed to the reform is auto theft,” the PPIC continued. “We urge against drawing any firm conclusions about Proposition 47’s impact on crime.”
Because there is no data that proves the increase of crime is linked to the law, we should not make any assumptions just yet.