Prop. 47 Savings Would Be Used for Mental Health Care
The majority of funds garnered through a ballot initiative aimed at reducing criminal penalties would be used to provide community-based mental health and drug treatment services, ABC7 News reports (ABC7 News, 10/27).
Details of Prop. 47
Proposition 47 would change six "non-violent, non-serious" crimes from felony charges to misdemeanors, including:
- Property crimes worth less than $950, such as bad checks, forgery, fraud, grand theft, receiving stolen property and shoplifting; and
- Possession of small amounts of illicit drugs.
Robert Rooks, organizing director at Californians for Safety and Justice, said the measure excludes individuals who have previously been convicted of a violence crime or sexual offense. It also would maintain the option of a felony charge for repeat offenders, according to Rooks (Gatlin, Salinas Californian, 10/27). Californians for Safety and Justice has a 501c4 called Vote Safe, which supports Prop. 47.
If passed, some current inmates could be resentenced under the initiative, according to ABC7.
Changing the crimes from felony to misdemeanor charges would mean some inmates would serve shorter sentences in county jails, rather than state prisons.
The measure is supported the American Civil Liberties Union and teachers unions.
However, law enforcement groups -- including associations of California district attorneys and police chiefs -- largely oppose the initiative because they say it could lead to the release of dangerous criminals or disrupt funding under the state's prison realignment plan.
An independent legislative analysis found that Prop. 47 could save the state several hundred million dollars (ABC7 News, 10/27). Of the money saved:
- 65% would be earmarked for community-based mental health and drug treatment services;
- 25% would be earmarked for education; and
- 10% would be earmarked for crime victim services (Salinas Californian, 10/27).
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said the funding would be "strictly earmarked for those purposes" and "cannot go into the general fund" (ABC7 News, 10/27).
Opinion Piece Calls Prop. 47 an 'Important Step'
In a Sacramento Bee opinion piece, state Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Rusty Selix, executive director of the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies, call Prop. 47 "an important step" in "rebuild[ing] our mental health and community infrastructure by reducing waste in the very place -- prisons -- that has swallowed up those resources over the years."
The authors cite Stanford Law School research that found 45% of California prisoners have received treatment for a mental illness within the past year. In addition, they note that the U.S. Department of Justice found inmates in state prisons who have mental health issues are incarcerated an average of 15 months longer than other prisoners (Steinberg/Selix, "Soapbox," Sacramento Bee, 10/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.