Viewpoints

Viewpoints: Prop. 47 would turn criminals loose

In what seems to be a cynical ploy to deceive voters, the proponents of Proposition 47 conjured up the name “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” for a collection of bad ideas that would produce the opposite of what that title portends.

If you are asking yourself how letting as many as 10,000 felons out of prison and decreasing penalties for crimes such as gun theft, possession of date-rape drugs and identity theft would make you safer and protect your children, you are in good company.

We can all agree that at some level criminals must face meaningful consequences for violating the law. Proposition 47 turns that idea on its head. The penalties for serious crimes would be reduced, and felons already in prison would be entitled to resentencing to county jail or outright release.

For instance, existing law recognizes the severity of stealing a gun. Proposition 47, however, would turn gun theft into a misdemeanor. Not only can stealing firearms make a community less safe, but the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” would decrease the penalty for that crime to a mere slap on the wrist.

And speaking of guns, by converting felonies to misdemeanors, criminals who would otherwise be prohibited from possessing a firearm would be allowed to own guns. Misdemeanors generally do not carry the same gun ownership limits that felonies do, so the passage of Proposition 47 would lead to the increased arming of convicted criminals.

Proposition 47 would also severely decrease the penalty for drug possession. Keep in mind we are not talking about possession of marijuana, but rather hard drugs including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and GHB (a drug often used to perpetrate date rape). That’s right, a predator who possesses date-rape drugs would be liable only for a misdemeanor.

The measure presents the potential to cripple California’s recovering, yet fragile, economy. By reducing the penalty for commercial burglary to a straight misdemeanor, Proposition 47 would declare open season on retail businesses. Also worth noting is the get-out-of-jail free card given to those who commit forgery or write bad checks. In this time of near-constant data breaches, we should not be putting out the welcome mat for criminals who would steal our identities.

As thousands of felons leave the state prisons, this measure would create even more pressure on our aging and overcrowded jails, putting another unfunded mandate on frontline law enforcement officers.

Proponents will tell you that all this measure does is give first-time offenders and petty criminals a second chance while saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars. The truth is that those types of offenders rarely end up in jails or prison. By law, first-time drug offenders cannot be sent to jail or prison, and most counties have diversion and probation programs that allow judges and prosecutors to appropriately sanction minor crime by rookie criminals.

And the savings to be generated by Proposition 47 are illusory – a cheap political trick designed to con voters into thinking schools and students would be showered with all of the money saved by releasing felons into our neighborhoods.

It all boils down to the fact that Proposition 47 would result in more crime, new victims and less safety. Safe neighborhoods and schools? Not if Proposition 47 passes. Please vote “no.”

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