This November, Californians will get to decide if they want to reduce the penalties for certain crimes in their state to misdemeanors. Proposition 47 is on the ballot and will reduce most “nonserious, nonviolent crimes like petty theft and drug possession” to a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
The idea behind the initiative is to reduce the burden on California’s prisons by reducing the penalty for “nonserious, nonviolent crimes”. The theory is that people are currently receiving felony convictions for crimes that are generally considered to be minor.
The California Police Chiefs Association disagrees and says the proposition is a “dangerous and radical package of ill-conceived policies.”. The primary concerns with Prop 47 are that it:
- Will require thousands of potentially dangerous inmates which are currently in California prisons to be released. Convicts that are serving time for serious crimes like robberies, kidnappings, car theft, child abuse, burglaries, arson and assault with a deadly weapon will be eligible for early release.
- Would get rid of mandated felony prosecution for theft of a firearm. Currently, theft of a gun is a felony offense. Prop 47 would make all gun theft a misdemeanor unless the weapon costs more than $950 and virtually all handguns retail for less than $950.
- Makes possession of date-rape drugs a misdemeanor.
- Burdens the criminal justice system due to the courts having to review the cases of over 10,000 felons serving time in prison.
The proposition has strong financial support so far with some major donors on board. Reed Hastings of Netflix and Sean Parker, former president of Facebook, have both donated heavily. The ACLU of Northern California has also thrown their support behind the proposition.
Many Californians seem to think the proposition is a good idea. The concept of reducing drug possession to a misdemeanor resonates strongly in a state that has tried to legalize marijuana. A recently conducted poll by Public Policy Institute of California showed that 62% of likely voters support Prop 47.
California will decide in November if they want to be softer on crime. One thing is for certain, the impact of their decision will be huge on the criminal system in California.