The Public and Private Deception of Prop 47

By Marc Debbaudt

As supporters of Prop 47 furiously try to convince the public of their very dubious claim that the initiative has resulted in monetary savings, Californians have suffered a myriad of other real costs as a result of this measure. Prop 47 certainly does not create any clear benefits to society, but only to drug addicts and thieves. The claim there are savings is a monumental misconception.

The numerical value of the real costs of this policy that has been inflicted upon Californians through a misleading initiative is never calculated. The ignored costs range from a spike in violent crime and property crimes, increased rates of recidivism, and an abrupt decrease in the population of participants in drug and mental health treatment facilities throughout Southern California.

The physical and psychological costs of the increase in property and violent crimes on citizens, store owners, and victims have no price tag.  As Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell recently expressed, there have been 30 homicides since the passage of Prop 47 by individuals who otherwise would have been off the streets and in the County jail for previous crimes they had committed which now fall under Prop 47.  That’s real trauma in the lives of decent, law-abiding human beings. 30 victims, and their families, as well as those who were forced to witness inexcusable violence. All of these pay a dear price that can’t be monetarily quantified-all because of Prop 47.

The deceitfully named Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act is having a substantial negative impact on society throughout the City and County of Los Angeles in both the associated costs of crime and its psychological costs. Crime will undoubtedly continue to rise due to a lack of proper punishments and incentives to make individuals abide by the law. Some criminals have gleefully told reporters that Prop 47 has incentivized them to continue to commit crimes. In a Washington Post story appropriately headlined, “A virtual get-out-of-jail-free card“, one thief in San Bernardino County, who had been caught shoplifting, even bragged about carrying a calculator to ensure he did not exceed the $950 limit that would make his crime a felony.

The toll of crime on people victimized does not end when the crime is completed. When a criminal steals property, takes an identity to commit a theft, or forges checks, the victim suffers a loss of personal privacy and security that lingers and does not evaporate. It takes valuable time to contact the authorities, the banks, creditors, and businesses. What is the cost of that?

Prop 47 has also failed in its stated purpose of rehabilitating drug addicts. Statewide, the number of participants in both mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities has plummeted. The individuals that are committing crimes that fall under Prop 47 are now misdemeanors and are no longer required (by court order) to enroll in drug treatment programs or do time in county jail. Therefore, there is no longer a metaphorical hammer being held over their head to ensure they attend and successfully complete these programs to be effectively reintegrated into society. The social engineers claimed it was about rehabilitation, but there is no rehabilitation. Large sums of money are being spent on these drug treatment programs that no one will attend because there is no incentive to attend and complete the programs.

In seeking criminal justice, three overriding concepts are considered: rehabilitation, punishment, and deterrence. Punishment and deterrence are now anathema to the those who tinker with public safety and came up with Prop 47.  Anything other than rehabilitation is characterized as an inhuman, uncompassionate response to crime-never mind that while incarcerated criminals are not committing crimes on the streets. Under Prop 47, those same criminals are let loose on our streets.

With all of the evident negative consequences and deceptions that have been put forth by Prop 47, I am left wondering why this reckless policy was ever advanced.  What is the true goal? Anarchy? One can only wonder given the clear negative impact on the safety and wellbeing of our community and the victimization of the citizens that is a direct result of Prop 47.  The toll of Proposition 47 continues to climb, and it is not simply a monetary cost. It is a real cost on lives that no one wants to discuss.

Marc Debbaudt is President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

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