SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Stanford Law School Stanford Justice Advocacy Project recently released the Proposition 47 Progress Report highlighting the progress made since the proposition’s enactment in November 2014.
The report found that Proposition 47 (Prop 47) resulted in a 13,000-inmate decrease across California’s jails and prisons, which has helped alleviate once-critical overcrowding. The group found Prop 47 has also reduced the number of jail inmates released from custody early due to overcrowding, and is expected to generate more than $150 million on state savings for the current fiscal year. Additionally, county governments could see even greater savings of more than $200 million annually in aggregate, according to the report.
Prop 47, also called the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, passed last year with a 60 percent margin and primarily reduces punishments for six nonviolent and drug felonies to misdemeanor offenses (with exceptions for inmates with previous murder or sex offenses). Inmates serving felony sentences can also request resentencing under Prop 47, bringing their sentences in line with those for misdemeanor crimes. Additionally, the proposition funnels money saved through reduced detention costs into mental health, drug addiction, diversion and victim support programs.
While 40,000 Californians received felony sentences for property- and drug-related crimes annually prior to Prop 47, those same offenders are now receiving reduced sentences, lowering costs related to both incarceration and litigation. The report quoted a Department of Corrections study showing that nearly 4,500 state inmates have been released under Prop 47, and that the state anticipates incarcerating 3,300 fewer inmates annually as a result of the reclassification.
The state’s jail population has also felt the effects of Prop 47, as that population has decreased by 9,000 inmates since the proposition’s inception. Overcrowding-related early releases from county jails are also down roughly 35 percent throughout the state.
Financial savings gleaned from the proposition already number in the tens of millions of dollars. The report showed reduced prison costs have saved the state more than $156 million in the current fiscal year, with long-term annual savings estimated at more than $93 million. This allowed Gov. Jerry Brown to cut the state’s prison budget by $70 million in May.
Despite the fact that the Stanford Justice Advocacy Project was able to examine just one year of data, the group also found that less than 5 percent of state inmates released early thanks to Proposition 47 have been convicted and sentenced for a new crime following their release.
“Although law enforcement officials in some jurisdictions have recently complained about increasing crime rates, there is no evidence that state prisoners released early under Proposition 47 are committing those crimes,” the report stated. “Statewide data on crime rates is not currently available, making it impossible to measure any impact on crimes rates by Proposition 47.”