Prop 47 Aims for Softer Sentences, School Funding

The "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Initiative" would reduce non-violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors

 A new proposition slated for California’s November ballot would make thousands of criminals eligible for re-sentencing in an effort to fund education.

Proposition 47 – also known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Initiative” – aims to reclassify current non-violent crimes like drug possession or petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors, unless the prisoner has prior convictions for violent and serious crimes.

Supporters say by reducing the convict’s sentence and therefore reducing the prison population, the state could save more than a billion dollars over five years.

An estimated $150 million to $250 million would go toward mental health programs and schools.

One supporter of Prop 47 is former San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne.

Under his 11 year tenure, hundreds of such non-violent criminals were sentenced to terms at Donovan Correctional Facility.

But now, the retired top cop is taking a different stance on sentencing laws.

“I’ve got 49 years in this business, and it’s clear warehousing people doesn’t work,” said Lansdowne. “You’ll have to look at real crime prevention in long-term, and that’s treatment and prevention.”

But another big name in law enforcement – District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis – disagrees, noting that the illegal possession of date rape dugs will be reduced to a “slap on the wrist” and stealing any handgun worth less than $950 will no longer be a felony, according to DA spokesman Steve Walker.

“The San Diego District Attorney’s office opposes Prop 47 and is working with other prosecutors in the state to defeat this ill-conceived initiative,” said Walker.

There is also concern that judges will not be able to block the early release of inmates who have prior convictions for serious crimes.

The spokesperson for the San Diego Unified School District said they were not familiar enough with this issue to comment at this time.

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