Since it passed in November, Proposition 47 has changed a lot more than just the sentences for some low-level, non-violent offenders. It also has changed how law enforcement officers view some crimes and how long some criminal offenders stay in prison, according to a recent report by the LA Times.
Prop 47 reduces some crimes from felonies and wobblers to misdemeanors, which significantly reduces the maximum penalties for these crimes. Prop 47 has already decreased prison and jail populations across the state.
Prop 47 Reduces Some Felony Crimes to Misdemeanor Offenses
While the resentencing of felony and wobbler crimes to misdemeanor offenses has significantly reduced the number of offenders behind bars, the law has also reduced the number of people being arrested for narcotics, possession, and simple theft crimes. According to the LA Times, drug-related arrests by the LA County Sheriff’s Office have decreased by 30% since Prop 47 passed, and bookings have gone down about 23%.1
At least part of the reason for this decrease in arrests is that police officers are focusing on more serious crimes and putting less focus on arresting low-level offenders. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has instructed officers to continue to pursue drug offenders as they have in the past even though simple possession of a drug for personal use has in most circumstances become a misdemeanor offense. Now, police officers simply are issuing a citation to appear in court instead of arresting drug offenders and taking them to jail.
Prop 47 Increasing Time Served for Felony Offenders
The reduction in nonviolent offender incarcerations is allowing law officials to increase how much time is served behind bars for offenders not covered under Prop 47. In fact, early release programs, which were used to combat prison overpopulation, meant that some offenders would spend only as little as 10% of their sentence actually behind bars. Later, as county jails began housing federal inmates, overpopulation issues again led to the use of early release programs for offenders in county jail. Now, because of Prop 47, offenders are spending up to 90% of their sentence behind bars.
Jail officials said they expect the decrease in arrests and prison populations to resurge in a few months as those issued citations will fail to show up for court and are arrested after warrants are issued, and others will end up being sentenced once their case goes to court.
Share Your Feedback with Us
We at Wallin & Klarich would like to hear from you about this topic. Do you agree with Prop 47 and the resentencing of some felony crimes to misdemeanor offenses? Do you feel that reducing prison overpopulation and requiring felony offenders to serve more time behind bars is a good idea, or do you believe that low-level crimes should still be punished with a jail sentence? What other results of Prop 47 do you expect to see as time goes on? Please feel free to leave your comments below.
1. [http://www.latimes.com/local/crime/la-me-early-release-20150128-story.html#page=1 ]↩