In November, voters will be asked to weigh in on Proposition 47, which would reduce some petty crimes – such as shoplifting less than $950 worth of merchandise and possession of cocaine or heroin – from felonies to misdemeanors.
The goal of the initiative is to cut the state prison population, saving potentially hundreds of millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent incarcerating criminals. An estimated 40,000 offenders would be affected by Proposition 47 annually, instead serving time in county jails or facing no significant time behind bars. The savings would be used for truancy and dropout prevention programs, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and victim services.
Law enforcement groups oppose the measure, arguing it could hurt public safety, but have raised little for their effort. Meanwhile, big money is pouring into the yes campaign, including six-figure contributions from Public Storage executive B. Wayne Hughes, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame.
The state Senate and Assembly public safety committees will hold a joint informational hearing on Proposition 47, starting at noon in Room 4203 of the Capitol. After an overview from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, supporters including San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, and opponents such as Harriet Salarno, chair of Crime Victims United, will provide testimony on the measure.