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State Measure To Make Some Nonviolent Crimes Misdemeanors Passes

The entrance to the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa is shown in this undated photo.
Angela Carone
The entrance to the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa is shown in this undated photo.
State Measure To Make Some Nonviolent Crimes Misdemeanors Passes

UPDATE: 9:31 p.m.: Proposition 47 Prevails; AP Calling Race

From the Associated Press: California voters approved the measure reducing penalties for lower-level drug, property crimes. It was co-authored by former San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne but opposed by San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Shelley Zimmerman, who succeeded Lansdowne as police chief, also opposed it.


Statewide totals show that with 17 percent of the votes counted, the measure was ahead 58 percent to 42 percent.

UPDATE: 8:15 p.m.: Proposition 47 Ahead In Early Returns

With 6 percent of the ballots counted in the state, Proposition 47 is passing with 57 percent of the vote to 43 percent.

Original post:

Californians will decide Tuesday whether a variety of nonviolent drug and property crimes should be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. It would not apply to registered sex offenders or those with a prior conviction for serious or violent crimes.


Among the nonviolent crimes that would become misdemeanors under Proposition 47 are drug possession, petty theft, shoplifting, receiving stolen property and forging or writing bad checks.

A poll released on Oct. 22 by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California showed 59 percent of likely voters supported the measure compared to 29 percent against and 12 percent undecided.

PPIC’s survey showed 67 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents who were polled backed Proposition 47. Republicans were divided 48 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said the measure would save the state and county criminal justice systems “potentially in the high hundreds of millions dollars annually.”

Much of the savings would come from not putting those convicted of these crimes in prison and jail, instead getting them treatment.

Under the measure, 65 percent of the savings would go to mental health and drug treatment programs, 25 percent to school truancy and dropout prevention programs, and 10 percent to help crime victims.

Who supports the measure and why?

Among the authors of the measure are former San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who is also a former San Francisco police chief.

Lansdowne told KPBS that the measure would help people overcome their drug addictions while creating criminal justice cost savings that would be used to invest in programs that help keep youth in school and reduce the likelihood they will become criminals.

“What it does is redirect the money, to invest in the future, in kids to keep them in school," he said.

In addition, Lansdowne said, "It provides treatment for addiction, which are some of the things the crime issue is all about."

Who opposes the measure and why?

Groups representing police, sheriffs, district attorneys, crime victims sexual abuse victims and businesses are against Proposition 47. Among those opposed are San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.

The opponents say the measure has the potential to release 10,000 felons from state prison and goes too far in reducing sentences, particularly for property crimes. They also say it will also hamper crime prevention efforts.

"Drugs are a motivator for a lot of crimes. Low-level crimes to high-level crimes,” San Diego County Deputy District Attorney David Greenberg told KPBS. “We don't believe that this proposition will allow us to intervene and do forced intervention on these individuals, so that those crimes don't get committed."

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.