Prop. 47 will keep youths on right path

Chet P. Hewitt
Chet P. Hewitt

Last week, California made an important statement: The best way to deal with crime is by preventing it. And the best way to do that is to invest in our young men and women so that they remain on the right track and on the path to healthy and prosperous futures.

With the passage of Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, Californians have made a decision to improve community safety and position our state as a leader in right-sizing our criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Proposition 47 allows our communities to hold our young men and women accountable while providing them with additional support from schools and community-based programs instead of being sent to prison or jail. We now have the ability to address the “school-to-prison pipeline” and some of the root problems that drive so many young men and women, especially young men and women of color, into the criminal justice system.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Proposition 47 allows us to acknowledge that healthy environments and educated and healthy people significantly curb crime and violence in our communities. We wholeheartedly support enabling criminal and juvenile justice systems to better meet their public safety and rehabilitative goals by ensuring that some of their most vulnerable youths achieve the behavioral, physical, mental health and education outcomes they need.

According to an analysis of Proposition 47, there can be an annual savings of between $400 million and $700 million at the state and county levels. These savings will be shifted into K-12 school programs (25 percent), victims’ services (10 percent) and mental health and drug treatment (65 percent). Since Proposition 47 lets local governments decide what to do with the savings, communities will need to help set spending priorities.

Last week, a majority of Californians said they want our state’s criminal and juvenile justice strategy to progress. With such a strong endorsement, we encourage California’s counties to invest in bold, fresh ideas and proven approaches that reduce crime and violence but also promote education, health and wellness.

Philanthropic groups have a continuing responsibility to help our state create opportunities for all Californians to fully participate in the state’s economy and civic life. We believe that criminal and juvenile justice reform is one of the core opportunities to achieve this. We look forward to continuing to work with community organizations and with our state and local governments to identify ways to support the effective implementation of this new law.

Chet P. Hewitt is president and CEO of the Sierra Health Foundation. Tim Silard is president and CEO of the Rosenberg Foundation.

This commentary was also signed by Quinn Delaney, founder and president of the Akonadi Foundation; Antonia Hernandez, president and CEO of the California Community Foundation; Sandra Hernandez, president and CEO of the California Health Care Foundation; Judy Belk, president and CEO of the California Wellness Foundation; Janet Y. Spears, interim president and CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation; Shane Murphy Goldsmith, president and CEO of the Liberty Hill Foundation; Fred Blackwell, president and CEO of the San Francisco Foundation; Cedric Brown, managing partner of the Kapor Center for Social Impact; and Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment.