It is a waste of government funds to hold petty theft criminals and substance abusers under the same criminal justice standards as murderers, rapists and terrorists.
California Proposition 47, the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative, is simply that: a proposition to reduce penalties for less serious, non-violent crimes. This proposition calls for property crimes, under $950, and minor drug crimes to be reduced from felony charges to misdemeanor charges.
According to a 2013 report by California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, crimes against persons such as rape, murder and robbery were 44.8 percent of the total felon admissions. Property crimes such as petty theft, fraud/forgery and receiving stolen property made up 23.6 percent of the total felon admission. Drug crimes such as the possession of different drugs, sale and manufacture made up 14.9 percent of the total felon admission. Other felony crimes fell neatly under the “other” category with a 16.6 percent felony admission.
Though crimes against people, which includes violent and serious crimes, make up the plurality of the felon admissions, property, drug, and other crimes made up the majority at 55.1 percent. Drug and property crimes alone made up 38.5 percent of total felon admissions, a total of 14,511 inmates last year.
Based on our criminal justice system, a felony is punishable by more than a year of imprisonment or death. Because these property and drug crimes are obviously not serious enough to warrant capital punishment, offenders are usually subjected to many years of incarceration. These non-violent offenders take up jail space and use up state funds by being imprisoned longer than necessary.
It would be very beneficial for California to implement this law. According to the California Voter Guide, the state would save hundreds of millions of dollars each year by reducing the charge of property and drug crimes to a misdemeanor, a less serious offense punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine, and as a result would reduce the populations of inmates by the thousands.
Those hundreds of millions of dollars saved would be put to great use by funding social services programs. A new state fund, The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund, will receive all the annual savings earned from this new measure. The money will be allocated to reducing truancy and dropout rates in K-12 schools (25 percent of funds), victim services (10 percent of funds), and mental health and drug abuse treatment with the goal of keeping persons out of jail (65 percent of funds).
This proposition not only alleviates the crowded jail problem but also saves the state money, but would more importantly make it mandatory to use that money for helpful community resources. The benefits vastly outweigh the detriments.