The passing of Proposition 47, 57, and Assembly Bill 109 have been something that has been up for debate for nearly five years now in the state of California. These propositions, which many view as extremely controversial, are potentially to blame for a large number of violent crimes that have taken place in the state over the last few years, leading many to wonder if the state should reconsider their enactment.
In 2014, Proposition 47 was on the ballot and was passed by California voters with a majority 60 percent. This proposition reduced certain drug possession felonies to misdemeanors. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said that it does not necessarily mean that inmates are just getting a free pass and will be let go, as the felons would still have to petition the court for a resentencing in order to be considered.
With 47, inmates who had already been released would also be able to petition the court to have their felonies changed to misdemeanors on their record. To make sure that not just anyone can petition for this, if an inmate was convicted of any kind of sex crime, murder, attempted murder, or anything violent enough to receive a life sentence, they cannot get their conviction changed.
Along with 47, Californians passed Proposition 57 in November 2016 with a majority 64 percent. Proposition 57’s purpose, for civil and criminal trials, was to reexamine the requirements in granting parole for “non-violent” criminals and juvenile court cases.
The approval meant that voters were saying yes to increasing parole for those convicted of a felony if it was a “non-violent crime,” along with allowing judges to be able to make a decision if a juvenile would be tried as an adult in a court of law.
Both of these props have raised huge controversy on convictions and whether or not inmates deserve to have their sentences lightened and what technically constitutes a “violent crime.”
In 2011, California also passed Realignment Assembly Bill 109, which has stirred up a lot of questions as well. This Assembly Bill was formally called “California’s Public Safety Realignment Initiative,” and, along with propositions 47 and 57, it was initially proposed to help decrease the prison population.
According to Shouse California Law Group, AB 109 was set up to divert those who were convicted of less serious felonies from state prison to more local county jails. The bill still did not pertain to those who were convicted of sex crimes or anything violent, just as those of 47 and 57.
The controversy surrounding these propositions and assembly bills has to do with public safety and the well being of those outside of the prison system. Since their passing, there has been a number of cases where inmates who were released due to these have commited worse crimes than they were originally incarcerated for.
In 2017, NBC Los Angeles gave a horrifying example of these propositions going south. Michael Meja, a known gang member, shot and killed Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer after he was put on probation, rather than being kept in a Department of Corrections, as would previously have happened prior to the passing of the propositions.
Meja was involved in a traffic collision early one morning in Feb. 2017, where he shot Boyer and his partner shortly after they arrived. While already being a convicted, known gang member, records had shown that Meja had multiple encounters during his time as an inmate, which should have been a red flag before his release.
Instead of being released into the general public, Meja was also supposed to be checked into a drug rehabilitation facility just weeks before he took Boyers life.
Californians are second-guessing their choice on their ballots due in large part to situations like these. Questions remain on if it really is best to release these inmates, regardless of them being originally convicted of a non-violent crime.