Proposed State Budget Keeps Prop 47 Savings from Communities

 

The governor’s proposed state budget released today includes the current Department of Finance estimate of savings resulting from Proposition 47. This first estimate puts FY 2015-16 savings at just $29.3 million, far below all previous estimates and despite a clearly established reduction in state incarceration of people for low-level offenses in 2015 over previous years. The estimate announced today reflects a largely political choice to calculate savings in a way that keeps taxpayer dollars within the prison system – in clear violation of the voter intent behind Prop 47.

Passed by a 60% majority in November 2014, Prop 47 requires that all savings from reduced state incarceration costs be reinvested in communities to address societal challenges including mental illness, substance use disorders, and school truancy. Instead, the draft budget announced today opts to subtract several other costs from Prop 47 savings, including court and supervision costs.

Prop 47 reduced six low-level drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors in November 2014. Following the passage of Prop 47, judges approved the resentencing and release of more than 13,000 people from state prison. And more people convicted of a petty offense now remain at the county level to serve their misdemeanor sentence rather than serving a longer felony sentence in state prison. The governor’s draft budget projects that the average daily population of the state prison system will be reduced by approximately 4,700 as a result of Prop 47.

It is unreasonable and disingenuous to claim that Prop 47 has not significantly reduced incarceration costs at the state level. The governor’s intention to keep Prop 47 savings within the prison system rather than reinvesting them into communities reflects a misalignment between voters and the governor. This violation of voter intent must be repaired before the state budget is finalized in the summer.

This statement can be attributed to Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, Director of Criminal Justice and Drug Policy for the ACLU of California.

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