Prop 47 not ideal solution for reducing jail overpopulation

September 22, 2016 — by Ethan Ko and Alexandra Li

Prop 47 may have ill effects

After walking home alone after school last October, sophomore Francesca Chu found the front door of her house wide open. She hesitated to go inside, sensing that something was wrong.

When she entered, she saw all the drawers hanging open, with clothes and papers strewn all over the floor. All their valuables had been taken — someone had robbed her house.

“I was really surprised since we live in a pretty safe neighborhood and mad because they had taken so many of our things,” Chu said. “They felt like they had the right to violate so much of our personal space.”

Chu’s experience with robbery can perhaps be linked to the wave of crime in California after the 2014 passing of Proposition 47. Seeking to alleviate expensive and overcrowded prisons, the law imposed lighter sentences on criminals who had been sentenced for nonviolent crimes or drug possession felonies.

With Prop 47, a theft of anything below $950 or certain drug possession felonies is classified as a misdemeanor; therefore, criminals who had been serving for a felony can petition the court for resentencing.

These inmates are required to be resentenced unless the court finds them an unreasonable risk to public safety.

Although these steps may decrease the costs of running jails, the adverse effect — tens of thousands of potential thieves roaming free — has impacted communities around the state.

Therefore, although the problem of mass incarceration needs a solution, Prop 47 is not the effective approach. What Chu experienced only hints at the effects of Prop 47. According to, burglary rates rose up to 52.8 percent between 2013 and 2014 in Saratoga alone.

As Chu puts it, “I think the proposition sends a wrong message. With all these felons walking free, we could have a [new] problem.”

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