Recommendation for Proposition 47: Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties


Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act--Prop 47 will ensure that prison spending is focused on violent and serious offenses and will maximize alternatives for non-serious, nonviolent crime. The savings generated will be invested in prevention and support programs in K-12 schools, victim services, and mental health and drug treatment. Prop 47 will change low-level nonviolent crimes such as simple drug possession and petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors; sentences for people convicted of dangerous crimes like rape, murder, and child molestation will not be changed. The League believes alternatives to imprisonment should be explored and utilized, taking into consideration the circumstances and nature of the crime.

The chief basis of our support for this measure is the League’s Sentencing Policy position adopted in 2012. The growing costs of incarceration and the impact on budget decisions have been a concern for several years. Prop 47 reduces the penalty for certain nonviolent offenses, including simple drug possession and petty theft, to a misdemeanor. One of the major upsides of this is avoiding incarceration of nonviolent first offenders with hardened criminals. Counseling, community supervision and community service increase the possibility of rehabilitation and lower the risk of recidivism.

Savings from this proposal, which could easily be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, will be directed to a new fund, the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund,” where they can be devoted to prevention and early intervention programs as well as mental health and drug treatment, all areas that are strongly supported by the LWVC.

There will also be savings to county governments as fewer people are sentenced to jail time or community supervision. While not a part of the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund,” this will free more local dollars to help tight county budgets.

For more information about Prop 47, see Proposition 47: Should California Reduce Penalties for Drug and Property Crimes and Invest in Treatment?, California Budget Project, September 2014,

Read here for more information about the Yes on Prop 47 campaign. Californians for Safe Neighborhoods & Schools