The impact of mass incarceration can be felt on neighborhoods, families and individuals across the nation. As a result, many already-impoverished neighborhoods have lost thousands of working-age men and women whose lives are forever affected by mass incarceration. The state of California is advancing a solution to the over-incarceration in our communities.
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court found that overcrowding in California’s prisons violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment and ordered the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates. This savings from the mandated realignment will total upward of $250 million. Proposition 47: Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014 seeks to reallocate incarceration funds and reclassify lower-level petty crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, which would provide an opportunity for thousands of people to obtain jobs and reintegrate into society.
Proposition 47 seeks to:
- Reallocate upward of $250 million to K–12 schools, mental health and drug treatment programs, and support to crime victims.
- Reclassify misdemeanor sentences instead of felony for petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging/writing bad checks when value or amount involved is $950 or less.
- Require a misdemeanor sentence instead of felony for certain drug possession offenses.
- Require resentencing for people serving felony sentences for these offenses unless a court finds reasonable public safety risk.
The AFL-CIO strongly supports Proposition 47: Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014—which would reduce the impact of a felony conviction on communities, including increasing access to the ballot by those who have been disenfranchised—and encourages affiliate unions to communicate this important matter to their members. Reducing sentences from felonies to misdemeanors also will reduce barriers to unemployment insurance, social services and housing brought about by felony convictions. We commend the California Labor Federation, AFSCME California, the California Federation of Teachers AFT, UFCW California and the Executive Council Committee on Civil and Human Rights for their endorsement of this legislation.