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Reforms to Prop 47 Could Be Headed for Ballot


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By Jorge Casuso

February 5, 2024 -- Reforms to California's Prop 47 -- which reduced the prison population by reclassifying certain crimes as misdemeanors -- could be headed for the November ballot.

Sponsors of the proposed measure, which would bring harsher penalties for repeat offenders arrested for certain drug and theft crimes, reported they have collected some 250,000 signatures in less than 30 days.

The campaign for the California Increase Drug and Theft Penalties and Reduce Homelessness Initiative needs to gather 546,651 signatures by the end of April to qualify for the ballot.

Proponents of the measure blame Prop 47 -- which re-categorized some nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors, including drug possession and all thefts under $950 -- for a rise in homelessness, drug addiction and theft.

According to the measure, since Proposition 47 was approved by California voters in 2014, homelessness in California has increased 51 percent, compared to an 11 percent decline nationwide.

“The result (of Prop 47] has been massive increases in drug addiction, mental illness, and property crimes, including retail theft, committed by addicts to support their addiction,” according to the measure.

“At the same time, California has seen a dramatic decrease in mental health and drug treatment for homeless people due to reduced incentives to participate in treatment.”

According too the summary provided for inclusion on signature petition sheets, the proposed ballot measure "allows felony charges for possessing certain drugs, including fentanyl, and for thefts under $950."

The crimes -- "both currently chargeable only as misdemeanors" -- would apply to those "with two prior drug or two prior theft convictions, as applicable," the summary states.

The proposed measure "increases sentences for other specified drug and theft crimes," but allows those who "plead guilty to felony drug possession and complete treatment" to have the charges dismissed.

The ballot initiative likely faces an uphill battle in Santa Monica, where voters have traditionally shown strong support for justice reform measures, including Proposition 47.

Santa Monica voters overwhelmingly approved the 2014 ballot measure -- titled “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” -- with nearly 79 percent of the vote, compared to 60 percent statewide.

Two years later, nearly 82 percent of Santa Monica voters backed Proposition 57, which hastened the release of some non-violent offenders from prisons. By comparison, the measure received 68 percent of the vote statewide.

Local voters also have rejected efforts to reform Proposition 47. In November 2020, some two-thirds of Santa Monica voters helped defeat Proposition 20 -- which would have allowed some theft crimes to be prosecuted as felonies.

The failed proposition backed by law enforcement would have added 22 crimes to the state’s list of violent offenses that make an offender ineligible for earlier parole.

It also would have allowed felony charges for some theft crimes that currently can be charged only as misdemeanors.

Santa Monica police officials have argued that Prop 47 has helped create a revolving door that puts those convicted of crimes back on the streets.

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