Laws on Drug Crime Could be Changing

October 27, 2014
Laws on Drug Crime Could be Changing

If approved this November, Proposition 47 would significantly alter California laws on drug crime. If approved, most drug possession felonies would be downgraded to misdemeanors.

Prop 47 Redirection of Funds

California currently spends $62,000 per inmate per year. Reducing incarceration could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars each year, according to the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office. While most of that freed up money (65%) would go toward treatment for mental health and addiction, 35% would be redirected and put towards reduction of truancy, as well as victim’s services.

“We’re spending a ton of money on those folks, and they’re coming back and re-offending because we’re not dealing with the underlying facts,” said George Gascón, the district attorney of San Francisco. While voters seem to like the proposal, it’s not favored by prominent law enforcement groups such as the California Police Chiefs Association.

Will This Impact Drug Crime?

According to Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher Boyd, as the result of a ballot measure passed in 2000, the state doesn’t incarcerate people up for simple possession. Offenders instead receive a probationary sentence that is able to be revoked, thus sending them to prison if they fail to complete a treatment program. “There is a stick and that stick is a felony,” said Boyd. “This just takes even that away. All this is going to do is to set the stage for drug possession users to not even go to treatment.”

According to Keith Humphreys, a psychiatrist and expert in addiction at Stanford University, “They’re thinking about using the next drug, so they’re not going to be responding to ‘Is this a one-year penalty or is it a six-month penalty?’ Their lives aren’t about that. Their lives are about what happens today.”

Hidden Benefits

The California Budget Project predicted that the proposition could actually have substantial hidden benefits due to the increase in funding for treatment. And even more beneficial, those convicted for drug possession felonies will have their drug crimes reduced to misdemeanors. As a result, they could have an easier time securing employment.

As crime rates decline, according to Humphreys, “the country seems to have come to a different place” when it comes to rethinking incarceration, especially for those accused of drug crimes.

 

Source: The Huffington Post, California Proposition Would Reinvest Prison Money In Drug Treatment, October 8, 2014

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