Voters May Impose Tough-On-Crime Policies in CA

( – California voters approved Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, in 2014. The measure downgraded certain non-violent property offenses and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Savings would then be reallocated to community programs and school districts. Recent reports indicated that a coalition of interested parties is trying to reverse Prop 47 and reimpose tough-on-crime policies in the state.

Legislators in California can’t change laws enacted through ballot initiatives without getting voter approval through a new state statute referred to voters for approval. This process allows lawmakers and advocacy groups to bypass the usual legislative process of passing a bill directly in both chambers and having the governor sign off on the measure. Therefore, a private group of citizens and organizations spearheaded a grassroots effort to undo the damages caused by Prop 47.

Earlier this year, the Californians for Safer Communities Coalition announced it had gathered over 900,000 signatures to submit to state election officials. That’s enough to qualify Initiative 23-0017A1, the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act, for the November general election ballot to overturn Prop 47. Only 546,651 valid signatures were required.

If passed, the measure would focus on reclassifying some offenses committed by drug traffickers of powerful drugs like fentanyl and repeat smash-and-grab offenders back to state felonies. Additionally, the measure would mandate treatment and job training programs for individuals convicted under the new measure. Currently, there is no requirement for either, meaning offenders face limited consequences for their criminal activities.

The petition circulated to voters explained that the initiative would:

  • Return felony charges for thefts under $950 and possessing certain drugs for defendants with two prior drug or theft convictions;
  • Increase sentencing for other specified theft and drug crimes;
  • Defendants who attend a treatment program after pleading guilty to felony drug possession can have their charges dismissed.

The measure also stipulated that programs funded with the savings created by Prop 47 would be used to cover the costs of increased prison sentences if the initiative passes. Any remaining funds would go toward creating a new felony treatment program.

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