California voters passed Proposition 47, which will reduce simple drug possession and some property crimes to misdemeanors, with about 58 percent of the vote, reports U-T San Diego. Effective immediately, the state joins about a dozen other states with misdemeanor drug possession laws. The proposition, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, calls for an estimated $200 million saved in prison costs each year to fund programs that rehabilitate drug addicts, treat mental health needs, keep kids in school and support crime victims. “By passing Proposition 47, California voters show that they understand that the policies of the past have failed and that we cannot incarcerate our way to safety,” said Lenore Anderson, chair of the initiative ballot committee.
Supporters say the money will be better spent working to keep current and future inmates out of the criminal justice system's revolving door by providing treatment. It is also a way to comply with the court order that the state must cut its prison population, they say. Most police leaders argued that Proposition 47 is the wrong way to empty out cells, saying a misdemeanor is akin to a slap on the wrist and won't push addicts and other low-level criminals to turn their lives around. Disagreeing was former San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne, who said, “The vote clearly shows [people] want change, and we need to listen to it.”