California Proposition 47, the 2014 voter initiative that reduced certain low-level property and drug-related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, has significantly reduced the jail and prison population by 18,000 with 40,000 fewer convictions, saving taxpayers $103 million dollars in prison and jail related costs, reports the Bay Area News Group.
This $103 million in savings will go to cities and counties to fund the treatment of drug and alcohol addictions, and illnesses that create high risk for people who are released from jails and prisons. Alameda County will receive $6 million of that savings for their community-based re-entry programs, said the report.
Results from the study out of UC Irvine suggest the passage of Proposition 47 in 2014 “has had no effect on violent crimes, including homicide, rape, aggravated assault and robbery,” The Orange Country Register said.
“For each person that it costs $70,000 to house in prison, the voters said we want to move that money into treatment programs that will help people,” said Hillary Blout, staff attorney for Californians for Safety and Justice. “It took a lot of advocacy to make sure that the promise of the Prop reallocation number was real, it was at $50 million, then it was at $60 (million) and it took people going to Sacramento and banging on doors and making calls to get to the amount that it is today.”
County officials said the reallocation funds are part of a statewide effort to help the formerly incarcerated to overcome the obstacles they will face, which include discrimination in housing, employment, and denial of public resources. Formerly incarcerated individuals face multiple barriers to public resources, which contributes to the 44.6 percent recidivism rate, said the report.
In 2013, Alameda County Public Defender Brendan Woods started a program called “Clean Slate,” a program that helps those formerly incarcerated who have completed serving their probation, but still face many obstacles.
“People would call and say how can I find a job and how can I get the convictions off my record, can you help me,” Woods said. “And we couldn’t.”
Woods said under the Clean Slate program 5,000 people have gotten their felonies reduced and legal services to obtain their occupational licenses, which have eliminated other barriers to employment.
Los Angeles County, which houses about a third of California’s prisoners, will receive about $20 million of that funding to go toward an existing program called Office of Diversion and Re-entry that houses and treats people re-entering society after being released from hospitals, clinics, and jails.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2016, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Re-entry designed a pilot program to direct offenders to treatment, counseling, housing and employment. L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer created a program to specifically address drug use and treatment. Both Garcetti’s and Feuer’s programs will receive $6 million over the next three years.
But critics of Prop. 47 don’t share the same sentiments about its success. They say that voters should not have passed the proposition until those resources were already in place. However, the report notes there could not have been any programs without this new source of funding that came from prison savings.