Editorial: Sensible drug reform needed

Yes on Prop 47

La Voz Editorial Board

No matter how you vote on the other propositions Nov. 4, vote yes on Proposition 47.

This is the drug and other non-violent crime reform that California desperately needs.

It helps rehabilitate people convicted of personal drug use and other non-violent offenses, as long as the offender does not have a conviction for rape, murder, or assorted sexual offenses and gun crimes.

It would also help reduce prison crowding by giving a review to any inmate convicted of personal drug use or one of the specified non-violent offenses.

The California prison system is a mess because non-violent and personal drug use offenses are designated felonies, forcing prison time upon those convicted.

California prisons are overcrowded currently housing more than 117,000 inmates in prisons designed to hold 81,600 residents, 144 percent capacity, according to the Washington Post.

Last year 3,167 people were sent to prison in California for non-violent drug related felonies.

The most troubling statistic from California prisons is the recidivism rate. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 62.4 percent of released inmates return to prison within three years of their release.

We send non-violent offenders to prisons where they learn how to become hardened criminals from hardened criminals who need to be kept away from society.

Prop 47 would take the money saved from reducing prison populations and put it into a fund that would expand rehabilitation.

The rehabilitation part of the bill would put 25 percent of the saved money into schools to fund truancy and drop out prevention programs and 65 percent of the money into mental health and substance abuse treatment.

When a similar measure passed in Texas in 2007, the crime rate dropped and the state saved billions of dollars in the next few years, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The saved money was put into treatment services, which helped further reduce the number of people sent to prison.

When South Carolina reformed its prison system using similar approaches, the recidivism rate dropped.

Prop. 47’s opponents have resorted to fear mongering. Their argument is, if we reduce sentences California’s streets will be flooded with dangerous felons.

They say that it will legalize date rape drugs and make it easier for criminals to buy guns.

This is simply not true. The proposition is very clear that gun crimes, sexual offenses and rape are still felonies, as they should be.

Prop. 47 is a sensible reform that helps California without putting us in danger.