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California Sees a Relief in Prison Overcrowding after Approving Proposition 47

Posted by Seth Chazin | Mar 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

California has begun to experience a reduction in the prison population since voters approved Prop. 47, which eased punishment for some property and drug crimes. Since Proposition 47 was approved, 2,700 inmates have been released after their felonies were reduced to misdemeanors.

The significant inmate release over the past few months has resolved one of the state's most entrenched problems: prison overcrowding.  Prop. 47 has allowed the state to adhere to the court-ordered mandate that required a reduction in the prison population a year ahead of schedule.

Prop. 47 allows inmates who are serving time for crimes affected by the reduced penalties to apply to be resentenced and released early.  Crimes that will be reconsidered are shoplifting (CA PC 459.) , grand theft (CA PC 487), writing bad checks CA Penal Code 476A), and many drug crimes. Under this new act about 150 inmates will be released due to the new laws.  The reasoning behind this measure was to stop wasting resources on imprisoning people in state prisons for nonviolent crimes and redistributing that money into treatment and prevention programs.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has claimed that burglaries are up by 20 percent, larceny and theft up to 40 percent, and auto burglaries are up more than 55 percent, between 2010 and 2014. Suhr said those crimes shot up as a result of police alignment and because of Prop.47, but there could be a number of other factors which resulted in these increases, most especially the economic downturn, that has affected working class people the most.

Currently the state is 1,300 inmates below the final cap required by next year at its prisons, although the state utilizes out-of-state contracted prisons to meet the requirement.  San Francisco District Attorney, George Gascon believes that Prop.47 was approved to make sure law enforcement agencies prioritize serious and violent crimes instead of sending people to state prison for personal drug use.  He said, “ Cycling addicts in and out of jails is a sinkhole for taxpayer resources and doesn't make us safe.”

We totally agree with this conclusion.  Proposition 47 has caused a number of positive changes, most importantly the fact that we have reduced the incarceration rate in California.  This is long overdue, and is critically needed at this time.

Seth Chazin is a Criminal Defense attorney with over 30 years of experience, for more information check out:

About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 30 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


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“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson