Yesterday, Californians approved Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. This decision promises to improve community safety and position California as a leader in rightsizing our criminal justice system.
The Act ensures that people convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses will now be held accountable in our counties instead of being sent to state prison. By keeping them close to home, we can support them with community-based programs that address the root problems which drive so many people into the criminal justice system. The money saved in our state prison system can be invested in things that improve health and safety, such as K-12 school programs, substance abuse and treatment, and trauma recovery services for crime survivors.
We know that health – and the lack of it – is one of the largest drivers of crime and violence. In many counties, a combination of substance abuse and mental health issues account for the majority of people in jail. Treatment and recovery services are a proven solution for helping them successfully transition into productive, contributing members of our communities. This is why The California Endowment will continue to support efforts to enroll returning citizens in health care plans upon their release from prisons and jails.
Proposition 47 could result in annual savings of up to $1 billion. Approximately $400-700 million of this amount would come at the county level. As the Act is implemented, local governments will need to make important decisions about their spending priorities. We encourage each of our counties to invest in safety and not punishment alone – knowing that the majority of Californians are behind them.
California has made an important statement: Preventing crime is the most effective strategy for making our communities safe, and the best way of doing that is to keep people on track and invest in our youth.