Imagine what would happen if people of different walks of life decided that they were done with the insanity of mass incarceration and the War on Drugs. Imagine if people proclaimed that they were tired of: » Criminalizing people unnecessarily. » Tough on crime laws that do nothing to improve safety. » Spending billions on mass incarceration while schools crumble. » Separating children from their parents. » Not meeting the needs of victims of crime. » Using prisons and jails to penalize people who simply need a job or treatment. » Paying into a system that contributes to unemployment and crime. Well, now you don’t have to imagine.
On November 4, 2014, The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014, commonly referred to as Proposition 47, passed in California with overwhelming support from people who were tired of getting the same failing results from the criminal justice system. This reform proposal was led by a retired police chief and sitting prosecutor. Chief William Lansdowne and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, along with the Yes on 47 coalition consisting of justice advocates, educators, faith leaders, mental health and addiction professionals, parents, labor leaders, corrections officials, formerly incarcerated people, and victims of crime. This diverse group of people joined forces to support a substantial change in the justice landscape. What Does Proposition 47 Do?
- Requires low-level, non-violent offences be treated as misdemeanors, not felonies.
- Allows re-sentencing for anyone incarcerated for an offense that is now reclassified as a misdemeanor.
- Distributes incarceration cost savings to prevent crime by contributing 25 percent to California’s Department of Education, 10 percent to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board and 65 percent towards treatment.
Other Reforms Voters in California were not the only ones to strike a blow to the expensive and failed War on Drugs on Election Day. Oregon, Washington D.C., and Alaska legalized marijuana. Also, starting November 1, 2014, federal judges began using lower sentencing guidelines for those convicted of drug trafficking due to new U.S. Sentencing Commission reforms. Voters and law enforcement officials around the country are demanding a change and getting it. Ohio legislators and policymakers need to pay attention before they end up on the losing end of the war.