With enough information to comfortably call appointments and shots, and with some distressing news for Democrats in the Senate, I’d like to focus on the important news on the local scene.
The most important of these for CCC readers is the passage of Prop 47 with 58.5% voter support. The proposition will downgrade several nonviolent, nonserious offenses to misdemeanors, and will allow people currently serving felony time for these misdemeanors to petition for resentencing.
A few things that bear mentioning: First, many of the people whose offenses are affected by Prop 47 are already doing time in jails, as a function of Realignment, and some of them might even be doing a split sentence, which means they’re not in confinement at all. As such, they are also already under the authority of local probation offices and not of the statewide parole apparatus. It would be interesting to know, therefore, how much resentencing would really need to happen. My suspicion is that the effects of Prop 47 will be mostly felt in the counties that did Realignment wrong–building more jails and not using split sentencing–rather than in counties that embraced the reform. The late awakening of the Los Angeles D.A. preceded this proposition only by a few months.
Second: if that’s the case, and if Realignment already did most of this, what practical impact might this have? Well, for starters, think of all the offenders doing time who could not vote in 2014 because they were classified as felons–even though they were physically doing time in jail. Reclassified now as misdemeanants, these folks will be allowed to vote in 2016. This is excellent news that affect many thousands of Californians. Also, there are several Third Strikers whose third offense would now qualify as a misdemeanor, not a felony, and would therefore not trigger the law at all. Those folks are applying for resentencing anyway, as a result of Prop 36 and thanks to the efforts of the Stanford Three Strikes clinic, but I think their chances of prevailing may have improved.
And third: The passage of Prop 47 doesn’t mean that people have become more humane or care more about offenders. The proposition was a classic humonetarian move, appealing to people’s financial prudence, and it was supported by folks of all political stripes, including Newt Gingrich. I only regret that the proofs for Cheap on Crime are already set, otherwise I could add a few hefty paragraphs about this campaign. It’s right out of the Cheap on Crime playbook.
Other than that: Prop 46 did not pass; it was a mixed bag of arguably good things and litigation-hungry things, and I’m not quite sure whether to celebrate or mourn its defeat.
Dear Governor Brown, I congratulate you for earning a second term. As California limits governors to two terms, this is your opportunity to take the prison crisis seriously without worrying about reelection statistics. This is an opportunity to reform felon voting laws, to abolish the death penalty (which I know you think is ridiculous and expensive) and to make good things happen for formerly incarcerated people in their communities. This is an opportunity to outlaw Pay to Stay and to abolish long-term solitary confinement in California. Please, take this opportunity and let’s make history. Don’t let a serious financial crisis go to waste.