More than half a dozen states are reclassifying some property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, a change that could spare prison terms for minor offenses and save states jail and prosecution costs, reports USA Today. The changes increase the threshold dollar amounts for crimes like check kiting, theft, and criminal mischief.
California, Delaware, Illinois, Montana, and Washington, among others, have amended their criminal codes in the past two years, aimed partly at deferring hundreds of offenders from costly prison and jail sentences. State officials and criminal justice analysts said budget crises have forced state lawmakers, sometimes at political risk, to enact less punitive measures for criminal offenders. “Clearly one of the motivating factors is cost,” said Alison Shames of the Vera Institute of Justice, an advocacy group. “States are looking at the numbers of people in prison for property crimes and asking themselves a simple question: Does everybody really need to be there?”