Two views of how Prop. 47 is working out:

Positive: Barriers to employment were reduced

By Salvador Solorio

Proposition 47 has allowed many former offenders access to better jobs and opportunities.

The voter-approved initiative downgraded drug possession and some thefts from felonies to misdemeanors.

“This wave of new workers will inevitably benefit the economy, but it also decreases the likelihood of re-arrest,” USA Today reported. “According to recidivism experts and scientific studies, convicts are far less likely to re-offend if they get a good job when their incarceration ends, and yet this is the exact kind of employment that is often out of reach for felons.

“Unable to compete in the job market, they have few choices: suffer perpetual poverty in a low-paying job, hide their felony from employers or return to crime and risk another stint behind bars.”

In 2014, voters passed Proposition 47. It downgraded 198,000 felony convictions to misdemeanors and at least 13,500 inmates were released from incarceration, according to an analysis by USA Today Network-California journalists.

Some companies forbid the hiring of felons and most will turn away an applicant if a candidate with no convictions is available. Felons also have more difficulty obtaining professional licenses — whether they cut hair, sell homes or practice law. For those who reduced all of their felonies under Proposition 47, no conviction now stands between them and employment. Even individuals with some of their felonies reduced become more employable, the newspaper noted.

Lenore Anderson, a prison reform advocate who helped write Proposition 47, stated, “We created a system where there’s so many collateral impacts to having a felony conviction on your record that you cannot sustain yourself. You cannot find employment. You cannot find housing. You cannot integrate back with your family. These are all things that lead to recidivism.”

Economist Sung Won Sohn of Cal State Channel Islands stated Proposition 47’s reduction of convictions will create an influx of new workers and will also allow the state to get more production out of the workers it already has. Some working felons are likely overqualified for their current jobs but now can move up the ladder to better jobs.

Vonya Quarles, who launched the nonprofit StartingOverInc in Corona, said many of the Proposition 47 petitioners have abandoned their “I’ll-take-any-kind-of-job-we-can-get” attitude. Politicians may debate how much money the proposition has saved, and police might worry about a bump in property crime, but Quarles insists the biggest impact of Proposition 47 is also the hardest to measure — new hope.

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