Prop 47 – The Ill-Considered Initiative That Keeps on Failing
By Michele Hanisee
In December 2015, Los Angeles County Supervisors asked their various departments for updates on cost savings from Prop. 47. After all, Prop 47 supporters promised hundreds of millions of dollars a year if it passed. Surely the biggest county in the state with 25% of the total population would have reaped the lion’s share of promised savings.
Well, reality checked in on November 15, 2016: there were no savings. As department after department made their official reports to the Board of Supervisors, a dismal message of failure thanks to Prop. 47 was repeated over and over again. As detailed in a Daily News article bySusan Abram, in addition to no savings, the Department of Public Health reported that few people were completing drug treatment. The Sheriff’s Department reported that jail populations were increasing.
It is no surprise to anybody who is realistic about the criminal justice system that Prop. 47 has failed to deliver on its many claims. As Marc Debbaudt pointed out in a previous blog, making many theft and drug cases inconsequential misdemeanors removed any incentive for offenders to enter or complete drug treatment. Law enforcement leaders, including Sheriff Jim McDonnell, commented that removing penalties for theft offenses would only lead to more theft, and sure enough California has seen the property crime rate soar since passage of Prop. 47.
There is, of course, one area where costs of Prop. 47 have been felt. It is in the increased crime rate, with victims suffering economic loss at an increasing rate. We previously cited the Rand Corporation Cost of Crime Calculator to demonstrate the real impact of Prop. 47. Following the various department reports, the Board of Supervisors requested a study on how victims are impacted by Prop. 47.
Prop. 47 supporters remain undaunted, continuing to deny reality when it is staring them in the face. They continue to claim there will be savings, this time targeting the date of those savings as occurring this winter. Of course, in their campaign two years ago the promise was immediate savings of hundreds of millions of dollars upon passage. Similarly, they continue to deny a link between Prop. 47 and an increased crime ratesince a study hasn’t been done proving a link. That’s the best they muster as a response when confronted with the sobering fact that California’s property crime rate has increased by nearly double digits each of the last two years, while the rest of the nation has had decreases in property crime rates in the same period.
The simple and undeniable fact is that Prop. 47 was a bill of goods intended only to remove criminal penalties for drug users who steal to support their habits. As I pointed out in October, the Prop 47. fallout continues and California residents suffer as the rest of the nation sees a decline in crime. The false promises of cost savings, drug treatment, and safer communities that were used to obtain passage have not materialized. Every day, the truth of Prop 47’s failure becomes more clear, measured in metrics such as increased crime, more victims, and a decimation of drug treatment programs.
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.