Why the Green Party Endorses Proposition 47

from the Green Party of Alameda County Voter Guide:

YES, with great embarrassment and disappointment because much more needs to be done. Changes certain felony offenses to misdemeanors

Proposition 47, the Criminal Sentences, Misdemeanor Penalties Initiative Statute, demonstrates the intellectual-poverty and limpness of the public debate over criminal justice policy. It does not confront the almost total failure and tragedy-making of California’s prison and jail system. When we use the amount of public dollars tied up in the system as a measure, the arguments for or against Proposition 47 concern only about 3% of the nine (9) billion dollar cost. Of the 220,000 annual felony convictions, the sentencing of maybe 5% will be changed by passage of this initiative. Every life is important and every dollar is precious but Proposition 47 brings this State essentially no closer to ending the horrendous waste of lives and resources that is the California criminal justice system.

The initiative was written by the District Attorney of San Francisco, a former Assistant Police Chief for the Los Angeles Police Department, a former Chief of Police for San Francisco, and the former Chief of Police for the cities of San Diego, San Jose, and Richmond. The Chiefs were joined by a survivor, crime victims' advocate, and widow of a San Leandro police officer killed in the line of duty. All of Us or None members helped gather signatures for Prop 47.

The opposition is composed of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, California District Attorneys Association, California Fraternal Order of Police, California Peace Officers Association, California Police Chiefs Association, California Retailers Association, California State Sheriffs' Association, Crime Victim Action Alliance, and Crime Victims United of California. Great appreciation must be expressed to the proponents for standing against this “wall” of status quo benefactors and supporters. Despite the very limited nature of Proposition 47 the scare tactics put forward by this opposition will be just as loud as it will be untrue.

The initiative converts six crimes considered “wobblers,” non-violent crimes that can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors, into misdemeanor-specific charges. It could reduce sentences for numerous incarcerated people and potentially result in the release of thousands of people from prison. Additionally, this initiative would redirect money previously spent on prisons to other services: 25 percent for grants aimed at reducing truancy and drop-outs among K-12 students, 10 percent for victim services grants, and 65 percent to support mental health and drug abuse treatment services that are designed to help keep individuals out of prison and jail. The initiative is inapplicable to persons with prior conviction for serious or violent crime and registered sex offenders. It does not prevent judges from felony sentencing of those who steal a hand gun valued at less than $950, the property crime cut off point. The Sentencing Project recently reported that the budget-forced and/or court-forced prison population reductions have resulted in crime rate declines faster than the national average rather than the increases the opposition predicts.

In the last 30 years California has built 22 new prisons but only one university. This tragic waste of our resources has to stop. Proposition 47 is a tiny step in the right direction. It is just not enough.