Changing Gears: California’s Shift to Smart Justice

One year ago, 60% of California voters passed Proposition 47, which changed six petty drug and theft offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and mandated that savings from reduced incarceration be invested in communities. In passing Prop 47, voters sent a strong message that it’s time for California to shift gears from the expensive, one-size-fits-all approach of incarceration toward smarter approaches to crime prevention, specifically including treatment for underlying issues like addiction and mental illness.

The ACLU’s Changing Gears: California’s Shift to Smart Justice presents findings on the first year of Prop 47 implementation and recommendations for year two. It includes local data on the 40 counties, where most Californians live.

Prop 47 is the law, but it is not yet the new normal. Although much has already been accomplished, one year is not a lot of time to adjust local criminal justice systems. In Prop 47’s second year, counties must increase connections to services demonstrated to reduce future offending, including substance use disorders and mental health needs.

There are resources. Prop 47 savings will become available in 2016. Already this year, though, counties received $1.19 billion in Community Corrections, up 18% over the last fiscal year. These resources are available to implement both the law and the voter intent behind Prop 47. Our report also lays out several other funding streams that counties can leverage. 

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