Prison overcrowding has been a problem in California since 2009, but it’s something California is still struggling with today.
In November, California will be voting on 17 propositions that could change the state’s constitution. Proposition 57 would allow parole for non-violent criminals and change the juvenile court trial requirements. This change to the criminal justice system could create positive change in some areas, but also have a negative consequence.
First, Proposition 57 would directly help with overcrowding. According to Ballotpedia, California has around 25,000 criminals that could be affected by this proposition. This change could not only help with overcrowding, but it could also mean less of the taxpayers money is spent on prisons.
Although Proposition 57 sounds like a money saving situation, it could lead to bigger sacrifices.
One of the biggest concerns with Proposition 57 is that “non-violent” is poorly defined. People who oppose this proposition claim the passing of it will allow seemingly non-violent criminals out on parole, when they actually committed violent crimes.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schhubert told Ballotpedia’s fact checkers “Domestic violence, rape of an unconscious person, exploding a bomb with the intention of hurting people ... The public rightly believes those crimes are violent, but under the penal code they are nonviolent.”
The flaws in Proposition 57 may provide too much wiggle room for violent offenders in the justice system, making it hard to support the non-violent parole part of it.
Currently, California has a three strike sentencing law which, according to the state courts, made it so people convicted of a second felony would be sentenced to state prison for twice what they would be sentenced for originally.
If someone already has a felony with two or more strikes, they would be sentenced to state prison for 25 years to life.
Because drugs are placed under this category, it’s easy for someone to end up with 25 years to life just from drug related felonies. Should non-violent offenders take up space in the justice system? This sentencing law creates too many non-violent criminals who only serve to back up the justice system and cost taxpayers more money.
Another significant change Proposition 57 could provide is by allowing judges to decide how a juvenile should be tried in court. Currently, the prosecutor gets to decide if the juvenile should be tried as an adult, which could lead to biased decision making. This can also cause many young defendants to end up in state prison for a good portion oftheir lives.
In 2014, California voted on Proposition 47, which lowered certain non-violent felonies to misdemeanors. It also helped increase possible parole for those with non-violent felonies, mostly focused non-violent drug felonies.
Proposition 57 attempts to do the same thing Proposition 47 did, but with the undefined non-violent felonies, it leaves too big of a gray area. Those opposing Proposition 57 even suggestthis would create less safe neighborhoods.
Voting on Proposition 57 brings two different viewpoints into play. On one hand, it’s dealing with overcrowding and saving taxpayers money, while on the other hand it’s allowing for criminals with violent felonies to have a second chance.
Safety is somethingcitizens value above all else and they have good reason to. Creating a safer environment that doesn’t waste taxpayer money should be the priority, and passing of Propostion 57 will not accomplish this.