California voters this fall could approve big, some say “dangerous,” changes to the state's sentencing system, aimed partly at easing prison overcrowding, Fox News reports. On the ballot is a proposal that would dramatically change how the state treats certain “nonserious, nonviolent” drug and property crimes, by downgrading them from felonies to misdemeanors. The measure, Prop 47, would allow those currently serving time for such offenses to apply for a reduced sentence if they have no prior convictions for more serious crimes like murder, attempted murder or sexual offenses.
Businessman B. Wayne Hughes Jr., who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to push the measure, said the changes would affect Californians who are “over-incarcerated and over-unpunished.” “I saw Prop 47 as common-sense reform,” he said. “I don't see it as a radical reform.” The measure is being slammed as dangerous by law enforcers. San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said that “virtually the entire law enforcement community opposes Prop 47. It will require the release of thousands of dangerous inmates.” The proposition would reduce penalties for an array of crimes that can be prosecuted as either felonies or misdemeanors, including everything from drug possession to check fraud to petty theft to forgery. Prop 47 would treat them as misdemeanors, reducing average jail sentences. The state estimates that 40,000 people convicted each year would be affected.