Should Prisoners Be Released Under Proposition 47?

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Staff Editorial 

The approval of California Proposition 47 has allowed for the release of 2700 prisoners over the past four months. Prop 47, also known as the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative reintroduces misdemeanor sentences for prisoners sentenced with nonviolent felonies unless they have also been convicted for murder, rape, certain sex offenses, or certain gun crimes. About 10000 prisoners are currently eligible for resentencing. Their criminal histories will be reviewed thoroughly and there will also be comprehensive risk assessment of the release of inmates out of prison. Once a prisoner is released under Prop 47, they will be on parole for one year (unless a judge decides otherwise). Prop 47 plans to use the fiscal savings from releasing these prisoners to benefit the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund, a fund that was set up by Prop 47. The Fund contributes to the Department of Education, the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, and the Board of State and Community Correction.

Overcrowding in American prisons has been a longstanding issue and Prop 47 plans to address this problem by releasing inmates with less serious offenses so prisons only hold inmates who have committed serious, violent crimes.

The Foghorn sees two sides to the solution that Prop 47 presents on prison overcrowding. Releasing non-violent inmates early or giving them a lighter sentence will help streamline the incarceration process, as overcrowded prisons are already struggling to finance their large prison populations. The current incarceration process is extremely inefficient and costly. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, California spent 7.9 billion dollars on prisons in 2010, with the average inmate costing the state $47,421 annually. Appropriating the funds that accumulate from having less prisoners to social programs is a beneficial way to help reduce crime in the future by providing a support system to help people avoid ending up in prison. There are criminals who have committed far greater crimes who need to be in correctional facilities, much more than those who have committed simple misdemeanors.

As promising as Proposition 47 is and the rehabilitation opportunities it creates for newly released prisoners, there should be a system in place to make sure that the government departments that are receiving money from Prop 47 are using their funds effectively. We are concerned with how each department plans on using the money and which social programs they plan to implement in order to rehabilitate released inmates. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, three out of four former prisoners in thirty states were arrested within five years of their release. According to BBC Radio 4, the United Kingdom has a recidivism rate that is ten percent lower than that of the United States. This difference in recidivism is connected to the fact that the United Kingdom places more of an emphasis on rehabilitating and educating their released prisoners, while the United States places more of a focus on punishing their prisoners and isolating them, instead of helping them reintegrate into society. If the Department of Education, the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, and the Board of State and Community Correction implement effective social rehabilitation programs for prisoners released by Prop 47, then we think the Proposition would be a successful one.

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