The goal of Proposition 47 is to reduce the prison population to comply with court orders that deemed overcrowding in jails unacceptable; lessen punishment for certain non-violent drug and property crimes; and creating a fund to treat mental health and addiction, prevent school desertion and for emergency medical centers, among other things. The idea is to correct the negative impact of a criminal justice policy based on locking people up and throwing away the key.
The secret to the initiative’s success ‒ which was approved by voters in 2014 ‒ will be to accomplish every part of the proposal. Let’s not let it be sabotaged through hasty anecdotes or uninformed analyses linking it to a supposed increase in crime rates.
The release of the nearly 5,000 eligible convicts is underway, as well as the work to reduce the category of these crimes, in which judges will have the last word. The problem now is that the money for the aforementioned fund ‒ set to be obtained from the savings accumulated after the implementation of Proposition 47 ‒ is less than it should be, disrupting the initiative.
Governor Brown’s 2016-17 allocated $29.3 million in general savings for the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. However, a study made by the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that the amount needs to be at least $100 million higher.
We know that there are other priorities in Sacramento and that it is wise to save money for times of crisis, but it is wrong to scrimp on spending where it is most needed. First of all, they need to be honest about the correct amount the program will require. Second, the $100 million discrepancy could mean the difference between our success and failure to help mental patients and addicts stay out of jail and prevent our children from ever setting foot in one.
Unfortunately, some people are interested in seeing the initiative fail in order to blame it for new crimes, without any proof. Just a few days ago, a report by Stanislaus County stated that it is still too early to know the impact of the measure on delinquency. Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion concurred.
Voters approved Proposition 47 as a whole. The authorities in Sacramento must follow through their part by assigning the appropriate amount of funds.