Being convicted of a felony has life-changing consequences. Felonies are considered the most serious class of crimes and are generally punishable by over a year in prison and/or a large fine. Felonies are more serious than misdemeanor crimes by nature and often involve acts of violence.
However, under current California law, there are many non-violent crimes that can be considered felonies, including:
- drug possession
- possession of stolen goods
- petty theft
- writing bad checks
Felony convictions involving crimes like these have sent countless people to prison and California’s Yes campaign is trying to stop that with Proposition 47, also known as the "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.”
In November, California voters will have the opportunity to approve the ballot measure which would drop the above-named crimes to misdemeanors. Instead of facing a possible three years in prison, those convicted of the non-violent crimes would face a maximum of one year.
"We're trying to address over-reliance on incarceration, over-reliance on prison," said the director of the Yes campaign. She explained that re-classifying these common crimes as misdemeanors would result in “sensible and modest sentencing reforms” and would ultimately save the state money by reducing the prison population.
A portion of the money saved would be sent to the Department of Education, hence the name “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that the reform would cut penalties for one in five people convicted of crimes in the state. The most recent data available shows that more than 58,000 of the 202,000 felony convictions in the state involve crimes included in Prop. 47.
Crimes involving more than $950 and defendants with criminal records including violence or sex offenses would not qualify under the reform.
Prop. 47 could also impact the state's controversial three strikes law, which we discussed recently in this post.
Prison sentence reform is becoming a hot-bottom issue in California and the rest of the United States. It seems that people are beginning to realize that locking up non-violent offenders for minor and petty crimes isn’t in anyone’s best interests.