Sentencing reform Proposition 47 passes, Advocates raise concerns about where the funding will go

For Immediate Release – Nov 5th, 2014

MEDIA CONTACT: Diana Zuñiga, Californians United for a Responsible Budget or 213-864-8931

California – Tonight, California voters passed criminal justice reform measure Proposition 47. The proposition changes the lowest level drug possession and petty theft crimes from felonies to simple misdemeanors for some people. Although re-sentencing is not guaranteed, up to 10,000 people in California’s prisons and jails will be eligible for resentencing, and newly sentenced individuals who meet the requirements will be under county jurisdiction. The measure predicted to save $150-250 million a year to be channeled into prevention programs and recidivism reduction, but advocates have raised concerns about exactly where that money will go.

“The passage of prop 47 is yet another clear signal that the majority of Californians want an end to mass incarceration and an increase in spending on social programs” says Emily Harris, Statewide Coordinator of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “The passage of this proposition verifies that all planned prison and jail expansion should be halted immediately before any more public funds are squandered.”

Currently, the state is building new prison beds at Mule Creek prison in Ione and Donovan prison in San Diego, costing taxpayers $810 million, and is converting two former juvenile prisons into adult facilities. In recent years, California has pushed forward $2.2 billion of jail construction money, propelling over 41 counties to make jail expansion plans.The majority of savings from this measure–65%–will go directly to the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), the body responsible for directing billions of dollars of construction money to prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers. The Board is composed of majority law enforcement officials.

“The intent of this measure is to reduce the prison population and channel savings into mental health and substance abuse services that have been drastically underfunded in California–that’s why Californians voted for it,” says Pete Woiwode of the California Partnership, a statewide coalition of anti-poverty organizations. “The battle now is to make sure that those services stay in the community and are not just another excuse to build more jails. If the BSCC allows these resources to end up in the hands of the Sheriffs, they’ll be violating the will of the voters, and pushing poor people towards jail, instead of the services they need.”

Advocates have also raised concerns about the 25% of funding that will go to the Department of Education to reduce truancy and support at-risk students or victims of crime. “We need everyone who voted for this measure to show up November 5th and make sure that the school allocation money will fund counselors, restorative justice practices, and social workers and not school police, surveillance cameras, or high power weapons as we’ve seen here in the past especially here in L.A,” says Patrisse Cullors-Brignac, Director of Dignity and Power Now.

A 2014 report by the Legislative Analysts’ Office from February 19, 2014 recommends that proposals for new jail construction funding be put on hold until the state conducts an analysis of what space is needed and whether counties have maximized alternatives to creating jail space.

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