It came as no surprise that Proposition 47, which reduced six felony charges to misdemeanor charges, passed in November, doing so with a 58 percent majority. After all, not only does the U.S. rank first globally for its incarceration rate, at 716 per 100,000 people, but one state — Louisiana — holds the world title all on its own at 1,341 per 100,000. Also, the U.S. holds the title for the highest incarcerated population at 2.2 million, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies. With numbers like that, why wouldn’t such an initiative pass? The ultimate goal of Proposition 47 was to reduce the prison population. Unfortunately, despite these alarming numbers, it seems that the unintended consequences of Proposition 47 were not carefully considered as certain crimes with apparent malicious intent now get nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
We understand that something must be done to curtail the prison population. We have continuously emphasized education and job opportunities as the best deterrents to incarceration. It’s a convoluted path to achieving the potential of both of these should-be societal standards for everyone, but in the meantime, the inherent “get out of jail free” cards that Proposition 47 gives when it comes to certain crimes benefit no one.
In the state legislature, three bills are circulating:
Assembly Bill 47: Possession of any three of date-rape drugs (ketamine, GHB and Rohypnol) to be increased to a felony charge; first time possession may be a misdemeanor or felony.
Assembly Bill 150: Reinstate felony penalties for firearm theft (felony charges had been reduced to misdemeanors for thefts under $950, including firearm value)
Assembly Bill 390: Allow police to collect DNA samples from those convicted of crimes that are now misdemeanors, like drug possession, burglary and petty theft.
Assembly Bills 47 and 150 correct major loopholes left open with the passage of Proposition 47. Just the thought that we are giving a pass to any person who has these drugs, most likely with the intent to use them and cause harm to others, should leave no question in voters’ minds as to AB 47’s importance. Further, stealing a gun? Absolutely no good can come of that, whether the gun frames an innocent person or kills an innocent person. Only a felony should be the charge.
As for the DNA collection, we remain on the fence with that as we understand problematic privacy issues, but the criminal charges impacted by Proposition 47 leave us wondering if people convicted of any of these crimes could be involved in other more dangerous crimes. If we err on the side of caution, for our own safety we support the passage of Assembly Bill 390 as well.
We have seen varying reports, some say that Proposition 47 has reduced prison populations while others say 47 hasn’t impacted populations at all. We have read that property theft is up but it’s too soon to really tell since the law has only been in effect since November. While we believe that some good has come of Proposition 47, we do not falter in our positions that gun theft and date-rape drugs deserve more than a ticket.