Recently a friend asked me for some local voting advice, and when I told her how much I enjoyed sharing my thoughts, she encouraged me to not be bashful about sharing with others. So…here you go…just in case you are interested.
Vote Yes on California Prop 47
Big Idea: Change the lowest-level, nonviolent crimes such as simple drug possession and petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors – and dedicate the savings to crime prevention, schools and drug treatment.
Story #1: A couple years ago someone picked a fight with one of the sweetest young men I know while he was at high school. Before I knew it, he was behind bars at Juvenile Hall. Fast forward a couple weeks and a judge is yelling at him, and his mother, and his sister, and me, essentially throwing the book at him while his public defender was literally half asleep. It woke me up to how out of control our criminal justice system can be in California, particularly for young people of color in under resourced neighborhoods. It also brought to light how well funded the Juvenile Hall appears to be, especially in comparison to that same young man’s high school.
Story #2: I get a chance to play basketball in San Quentin Prison on a regular basis, and I am consistently disturbed by the large percentage of people of color, predominantly African-American and Latino, who comprise the population of the prison. I am also regularly in awe of how kind and generous the inmates are whom I meet. I am also consistently in awe of the new and updated buildings in the prison. There is a wealth of research showing how systemic racism plays into who ends up in California prisons. There is also a wealth of research about how many people are in prison for low level, non-violent crimes.
Fact: Since 1980 California has built 22 prisons and 1 public university.
Fact: California spends approximately $62,000 per year per inmate and $9,000 per year per student for public education.
Fact: Various studies show that white people use drugs at approximately the same rates (or higher) than people of color, but people of color end up being prosecuted for drug possession at a much higher rate.
Details of the Act (from http://www.safetyandschools.com)
- Stops wasting prison space on low-level nonviolent crimes: Changes the lowest level nonviolent drug possession and petty theft crimes from felonies to simple misdemeanors. It authorizes resentencing for anyone who is incarcerated for these offenses and poses no threat to public safety. These changes apply to juveniles as well as adults.
- Keeps rapists, murderers and child molesters in prison: Maintains the current law for registered sex offenders and anyone with prior convictions for rape, murder or child molestation.
- Stops government waste and redirects hundreds of millions from prison spending to K-12 and treatment: California counties will save hundreds of millions annually and state prison reductions will generate between $750 million to $1.25 billion in savings over the next five years alone. Those savings will be shifted into K-12 school programs (25%), victim services (10%) and mental health and drug treatment (65%).
- Protects public safety: Focuses law enforcement resources on violent and serious crimes, and directs savings to programs that stop the cycle of crime. Prisoners may only be released if they demonstrate that they are no longer a threat to public safety.
- Reduces the collateral consequences of felony convictions for low-level crime: Reduces the barriers that many with felony convictions for low-level nonviolent crimes face to becoming stable and productive citizens, such as employment, housing and access to assistance programs and professional trades.
So that’s why I’m voting yes on 47, and I’m asking my friends to vote yes with me.