How Much Does Prop 47 Really Cost?

California has long been seen as a harbinger on crime and punishment. During the tough-on-crime 1980s and ‘90s, California led the charge, passing “Three Strikes” and other harsh sentencing laws that became a model for other states to follow. In California, these laws led to prison crowding so extreme that the federal government put the whole system under receivership. The tide is beginning to turn on criminal justice. California is again setting the national tone, first by rolling back … [Read more...]

Brown’s Criminal Justice Initiative’s Signatures Submitted

Gov. Jerry Brown’s criminal justice initiative may be heading for the fall ballot after proponents on Friday began submitting hundreds of thousands of signatures. Dana Williamson, a former Brown confidant who is spearheading the campaign, posted a photo online of several cardboard boxes filled with signed petitions and tweeted that the campaign had turned in “nearly a million” signatures. Brown needs about 585,500 valid signatures to qualify for the Nov. 8 ballot, though a court challenge to … [Read more...]

State Supreme Court Appears Hesitant to Block Brown’s Criminal Justice Measure

California’s Supreme Court justices voiced skepticism Thursday about a challenge to Gov. Jerry Brown’s criminal justice initiative. Justices heard oral arguments in a case brought by the California District Attorneys Association. The case is not a challenge to the substance of Brown’s initiative, aimed at reducing the state’s prison population, but rather to the way in which proponents attempted to speed up the process of getting the measure on the November ballot. A loss in the case would … [Read more...]

Senate Subcommittee Votes to Improve Prop. 47 Funding Process

On April 7th, the California Senate Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety, and the Judiciary (“Budget Sub. 5”) held a hearing to discuss important criminal justice policy. The hearing agenda put special focus on the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), the agency that will be responsible for distributing 65 percent of Prop. 47 state savings and $250 million in jail construction funding proposed in the Governor’s FY 2016-17 budget. On April 14, the BSCC Board approvedthe … [Read more...]

Where’s My Missing Prop 47 Savings?

On Nov. 4, 2014, California voters, by a 60-40 majority, approved Proposition 47, which changed six low-level drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. It also required that the resulting prison cost savings be reallocated to local mental health and drug treatment programs as well as truancy and dropout prevention and victim services. I strongly supported Prop. 47 – investing $1.3 million into its passage. Here’s why: California over the past 30 years has enacted extreme … [Read more...]

Putting Governor Brown’s Sentencing Proposal in Context

Governor Brown has proposed a ballot measure—the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act—that could significantly alter sentencing in California. If it qualifies for the ballot—which seems likely—and is approved by voters in November, the measure would allow non-violent felons who have earned enough credits for good behavior to spend less time in state prison. It would also shift the power to determine whether juveniles should be tried as adults from prosecutors to judges. The measure follows the … [Read more...]

Old Jerry Tries to Fix Young Jerry’s Mistake

Hang around long enough and you might see things turn full circle. People included. Like a comet, they come back around. Gov. Jerry Brown is a comet. He dominated the Capitol cosmos two generations ago, floated off and circled back. Now one of the major public policy issues of 40 years ago also has returned, meteor-like. It concerns criminal sentencing. Like too many things involving government, however, the jargon is wonky: "determinate" and "indeterminate." Put simply, it's … [Read more...]

Gov. Brown Seeking Ballot Initiative to Relax Mandatory Prison Sentences

Almost four decades after he signed a law mandating strict sentences for the most serious crimes, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday moved to ease its effect, proposing inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses be given a chance at early release. “Let's take the basic structure of our criminal law and say, when you've served fully the primary sentence, you can be considered for parole,” Brown said in announcing a November ballot initiative to streamline the rules — one he estimated could affect … [Read more...]

California Prison Spending Out of Whack

Where is the de-incarceration dividend? With crime up, Californians have a right to ask why the savings from prison realignment haven't materialized and why an expected $100 million to $200 million in Proposition 47 savings has been budgeted by Gov. Jerry Brown at less than $30 million. After all, the state's prison population has plunged, first from realignment — the 2011 shift in responsibility for many felons from the state to counties — then from inmate releases to meet court-imposed … [Read more...]

Prop 47 Savings Belong to Communities

Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget released today includes the current Department of Finance estimate of savings resulting from Proposition 47. This first estimate puts FY 2015-16 savings at just $29.3 million, far below all previous estimates and despite a clearly established reduction in state incarceration of people for low-level offenses in 2015 over previous years. The estimate announced today reflects a largely political choice to calculate savings in a way that keeps taxpayer … [Read more...]