Opinion: Vote Yes on Prop 47 to Fix Our Criminal Justice System and Support Our Schools

Prison overcrowding at California Prison

Proposition 47, also known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, will reduce the jail time for some “non serious and non violent property and drug crimes.” This would not apply to anyone with previous convictions for murder, rape or other sex or gun crimes. Estimated to save $150 – 250 million, Prop 47 would require that these savings be used to fund victim’s rights, programs to reduce school absences and drop out rates, and mental health and drug abuse treatment.

California’s tough-on-crime laws, including the Three Strikes Law passed 20 years ago, have bloated our prison system at an unsustainable rate and with little returns. In fact, a court order currently requires our prison population to be cut due to severe overcrowding. Passing this proposition would allow courts to do a thorough review of current prisoners’ criminal histories and re-evaluate sentencing according to the new guidelines.  This would potentially release 10,000 prisoners currently serving for non violent crimes. Removing thousands of prisoners from jails will free up resources to support our schools as well as rehabilitation programs designed to keep offenders from committing more crimes.

California currently spends over $62,000 per prisoner each year compared to only $9,200 per K-12 student. All this money spent on prisoners provides few results: six out of ten people exiting the California prison system return within three years. The numbers don’t make sense, and it’s time to try something new. Many other states (even Texas!) have implemented policies similar to Prop 47 which redirect funds for rehabilitation and treatment, resulting in savings and reduced crime. Young man in jail

Our prisons are disproportionately filled with young people of color. Their prospects of being productive members of society are tainted by often minor mistakes they may have made out of youthful error, such as drug possession or petty theft, the same crimes for which white people often receive lesser sentences. Locking them up with hardened criminals only perpetuates the cycle of violence in these communities.

Providing our youth with education, support, and rehabilitation instead of locking them up is a much more effective way to reduce crime, and creates an opportunity for people to flourish. People from all walks of life agree – Newt Gingrich, Jay-Z and Me. We all say vote yes on Prop 47.

Editor’s note: Voting is next Tuesday, November 4. But if you are a mail-in voter, you can vote today!
For more on all the propositions, see our 6 Minutes to the 6 California Ballot Propositions.

Feature Photo: An overcrowded California prison in 2006. Courtesy of California Department of  Corrections.
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