One year after California voters approved the landmark ballot measure called Proposition 47, it has dramatically altered the criminal justice landscape, reports the Los Angeles Times. The proposition, which downgraded drug possession and some theft crimes to misdemeanors, made good on its pledge to reduce prison and jail populations by thousands. Tens of thousands more people with older convictions have been able to wipe their records clean, giving them the chance to qualify for new jobs and other benefits. Still, law enforcement officials and others blame Prop 47 for allowing repeat offenders to breaking the law with little consequence. Crime has risen in the largest cities, setting off debate over whether the proposition is responsible. Some street cops are making fewer narcotics arrests. Without the threat of a felony conviction and a lengthy stint behind bars, fewer offenders are enrolling in court-ordered treatment.
“Proposition 47 was good and bad,” said Thomas Loversky, a criminal defense attorney who has clients in drug court. “The good part is we have people who shouldn’t be spending time in jail not spending time in jail. The bad part of Proposition 47 was there was no hammer to force people who needed treatment to get it.” Lenore Anderson, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice and an author of the measure, said courts and law enforcement agencies need to adjust to the new landscape by innovating, for example, by funneling offenders into treatment before they even see a judge. Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell believes Proposition 47 has led to more crime while forcing fewer addicts into treatment. “We’ve removed the disincentive, but we haven’t created a meaningful incentive,” McDonnell said. “We’re putting the people we’re trying to help in a position where we can’t help them.”