California voters have approved Proposition 47, which will change state sentencing laws.
The measure was winning 58 percent to 42 percent.
“The overwhelming support for this reform sends a powerful message nationally, demonstrating that voters are not just ready but eager to reduce prison populations in ways that can enhance public safety,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
A coalition of civil libertarian philanthropists, Democrats and organized labor pushed the measure to alter punishments for nonviolent crimes – a move they said would ultimately reduce crime and the statewide prison population.
Proposition 47 promised to reduce from felonies to misdemeanors punishments for a variety of property crimes – grand theft, shoplifting, check forgery or receiving stolen property of $950 or less and drug possession for personal use (not including marijuana, which is already an infraction).
The savings realized from the changes would go to support anti-truancy, mental health and drug treatment programs. Supporters raised millions from the American Civil Liberties Union and foundations controlled by a diverse list that included George Soros and B. Wayne Hughes, a Malibu Republican and conservative Christian businessman. Police and prosecutor organizations joined with crime victims’ groups to push back, arguing that the initiative would release too many criminals.