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Prop. 47 A Year Later: 12K Petitions Processed, 24K Pending In San Diego

Above: The Hall of Justice in downtown San Diego is pictured in this undated photo.

Audio

Aired 11/5/15

Wednesday marks one year since California voters approved Proposition 47. The measure made some low-level felonies misdemeanors in an effort to reform the criminal justice system.

Wednesday marks one year since California voters approved Proposition 47. The measure made some low-level felonies misdemeanors in an effort to reform the criminal justice system.

The law's supporters said it would save the state millions by clearing prison cells, with the savings going toward rehabilitation programs for people caught up in the legal system.

KPBS checked in with San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on the anniversary for an update. Here's a look at Proposition 47 by the numbers:

12,478

Dumanis' office has processed 12,478 petitions from convicted felons seeking lower charges and sentences.

57 Percent

Prosecutors granted 57 percent of those petitions. That's more than 7,000 inmates, or former inmates, who had their records amended and were potentially freed. Proposition 47 is retroactive, so people in and out of custody can request reclassification.

80

Local prosecutors challenged 80 petitions from individuals who would otherwise be eligible to benefit from the law because they believed they were a threat to the public. The court sided with the prosecutors in four of those cases.

23,746

There are 23,746 local petitions still pending, and that number is growing.

Zero

The DA's office has no dedicated staff to work on Proposition 47 petitions. Administrative staff and seven deputy district attorneys work on the petitions while juggling their normal duties.

Unlike California's earlier reform effort, AB 109, Proposition 47 doesn't come with funding to help counties implement the law and provide programs to help former offenders stay out of jail. Instead, it relies on future savings, which are estimated at $93.4 million a year.

22 Percent

Of the individuals who were granted changes to their charge or sentence, 22 percent have had new legal cases brought against them. It's unclear how many of those individuals were found guilty of a new crime.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

Stanford Law's Justice Advocacy Project estimates 5 percent of offenders released under Prop. 47 have returned to prison.

Statewide, the recidivism rate has been dropping. It was 54 percent in 2010, compared to 67 percent in 2005. And recently, the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found property and violent crime rates are below 2011 levels.

Still, Dumanis told KPBS Midday Edition Monday those rates could increase. She said the number of people in court-ordered drug treatment programs has dropped as a result of Proposition 47. Misdemeanor drug offenses come with 6-month sentences while many drug treatment programs are 18 months.

Dumanis, who came out against Proposition 47 before the 2014 election, said she'll focus on shoring up treatment and other support programs to combat recidivism in the coming year.

"We support the law and we want to see it succeed," Dumanis said. "In order to see it succeed though, one of the things I'm focused on is reaching out to get resources for mental health issues, for substance abuse issues, for housing issues, which are really key to turning someone around."

Correction: This story originally stated the state recidivism rate is 5 percent. That is the rate among offenders released under Prop. 47. The statewide recidivism rate for felons was 54 percent in 2010.

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