California should use more of the millions of Proposition 47 savings to fund community groups that help addicts kick drug addiction and get off the streets, says a self-described third-generation convicted felon.
Vonya Quarles seeks housing and employment programs for the nearly 4,700 people who have been re-sentenced and released from state prison as required by the passage of Proposition 47, reports a March 29 Los Angeles Times story.
Quarles is a lawyer and now executive director of a Riverside County nonprofit.
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 2014’s Proposition 47 to meet its promise, Quarles urged state officials not to create “an additional funding stream for the sheriff” but to pour new funds into community groups.
Quarles, who was on an executive committee that crafted the proposed guidelines for the reinvestment of Proposition 47 savings, told The Times, “We worked hard because Proposition 47 offered us something that we didn’t have before and that was relief of carrying felony convictions on our backs. It was supposed to be with the promise to get mental health and substance abuse treatment for our folks, not to have to go to jail to get these services.”
“That was the fundamental promise of Proposition 47, the sweeping, controversial 2014 ballot measure that downgraded six drug and theft crimes to misdemeanors,” The Times wrote.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s newest budget estimates saving $42.9 million after accounting for a temporary increase in the number of parolees and the court workload that comes with re-sentencing. State officials say they expect to distribute a total of $103 million over the next three years.
As mandated by Proposition 47, the state is to reinvest any savings into the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund (SNSF). The funds are continuously appropriated to augment existing mental health and substance abuse programs, truancy and dropout prevention and victim services.
Brown’s 2016-17 budget estimated a net savings of only $29.3 million from Proposition 47 to be deposited from the general fund into the SNSF. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, Brown’s budget proposal underestimates the savings of Proposition 47 by more than $100 million in fiscal year 2016-17.
The state’s estimated appropriation of only approximately $30 million a year for the next three years to keep fewer nonviolent offenders in prison will be awarded to nearly 60 cities, counties and state agencies, according to Quarles.
Brown signed legislation in 2014 establishing guidelines for the grant process. It set aside 65 percent of Proposition 47 savings for the Board of State and Community Corrections, requiring that money be used for health and human service, housing and job opportunities agencies.
“In some ways, Proposition 47 has accomplished what it was designed to do. It helped reduce the prison population, allowing the state to comply with a federal court order that found overcrowded prisons in California violated constitutional standards,” The Times reported.
In crafting the grant proposal process, the executive committee comprised criminal justice officials, advocates, former inmates and Hollywood producer Scott Burnick. Their task was choosing which community programs received funding.
“According to their guidelines, government agencies will receive the grant awards, but more than 50 percent of the funds must go directly to the community-based organizations they contract with for mental health, drug abuse and other social services,” the story said.
“Most Californians today agree that we need a set of investments that provide options beyond prisons, and many of those options work better to stop repeat crime,” said Lenore Anderson, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “That is going to be good for public safety but also good for saving the state money.”