California voters have passed Proposition 47, a ballot initiative that “Reduces the classification of most nonviolent crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor .” Included in the downgraded nonviolent felonies are shoplifting, and drug possession.
The move is expected to free as many as 10,000 nonviolent prisoners, and prevent up to 40,000 new convictions annually. Cost savings are to be folded back into mental health and addiction services.
From the Huffington Post:
Nonviolent felonies like shoplifting and drug possession will be downgraded to misdemeanors under the ballot measure, Proposition 47. As many as 10,000 people could be eligible for early release from state prisons, and it’s expected that courts will annually dispense around 40,000 fewer felony convictions.
The state Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that the new measure will save hundreds of millions of dollars on prisons. That money is to be redirected to education, mental health and addiction services — a novel approach that reformers hope will serve as a model in the larger push against mass incarceration.
The most vocal opponents of Proposition 47 were law enforcement officials who warned that the measure could make it harder to prosecute felony gun theft or possession of date-rape drugs.
The reclassification of nonviolent felonies is also intended to assist California in complying with a 2011 Supreme Court order to reduce overcrowding in state prisons.