Tomorrow is election day and along with choosing their favorite candidates, voters will be making some big decisions on ballot measures.
One of the more controversial is Proposition 47 which would change non-violent/non-serious crimes like drug possession and petty theft from felonies into misdemeanors.
“I think there is some merit to it. I think prisons are probably chuck full of people who have done drugs that in this day in age.” said Prop 47 supporter Greg Newton, “I think its time to have a little lesser sentence on some of those drug issues,” he said.
And if the measure passes, it would. Offenders charged with those types of crimes would be sentenced to a shorter time behind bars, which could help free up space in many of California’s overcrowded prisons.
“I don’t think people who take drugs or are caught with a little bit of drugs should be crowding our jails when we should put pedophiles, and rapists, and murderers, save room for them,” said Prop 47 supporter Diane Stern.
Supporters say Prop 47, known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act”, would also improve public safety with millions, even billions of taxpayer dollars saved from criminal proceedings. The money would then go towards supporting education, school dropout prevention, mental health, drug abuse treatment and other programs.
“We think a lot of people have felonies that could be misdemeanors and have a chance to move forward in their lives,” said Los Angeles Rabbi Jonathan Klein, also a supporter of Prop 47.
People against it, however, believe the proposition poses a major safety issue. President of the California Police Chiefs Association says Prop 47 would also reduce some violent crimes to misdemeanors, including carjacking, armed robbery and kidnapping. That could mean the early release of thousands of felons, putting them back on our streets.
Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff strongly opposes the law calling it misleading.
In a statement he says quote:
“This all boils down to the fact that Proposition 47 will result in more crime, new victims and less safety,” he said.
Riverside County District Attorney elect, Mike Hestrin also opposes it.
“I’ll give you an example, the theft of a fire arm, under $950 dollars, would now be a misdemeanor. Now, most guns aren’t under $950, most of the time people steal them to use them in other crimes, that’s not misdemeanor conduct,” he said.
Felony sentences will still be handed down if a defendant has prior violent crime convictions. If voters pass the measure, California will become to the first state to de-felonize drug use.