California is pulling ahead and leading the nation. The legislation of California in Sacramento in December 2014 produced PROPOSITION 47, a direct response to the problem of waste of human potential across the country where non violent drug offenders will now have their sentences reduced to misdemeanor and our jails and our courts will not be overflowing with these cases. Other states are watching to see how this three year proposition benefits the individuals and the state. Proposition 47 also included the design to allocate the funds that would be saved from Proposition 47 to be used for community based mental health services and job training. The availability of these services best accommodate the lives of those who have paid their dues, and leave prison. Proposition 47 is important because if the crime is reduced to a misdemeanor, then the black box on applications would not need to be marked “felony” and therefore, there is access to jobs, housing, food stamps, and in some cases voting. A felony must be acknowledged in any application, and most often accordingly those who check the box as a felon are excluded from the benefit of consideration for full entry. So for young people coming out of prison, this makes jobs and housing and support to make the transition into society even more difficult.
Proposition 47 as written grants funds be directed to education and job training as a hand up for entry into their lives. Presently the District Attorneys and Public Defenders in the State of California are in the process of finding those who qualify for the reduction to misdemeanor in past or current sentences so that these individuals can apply to have their sentences reduced by the state. Anyone who might be considered is encouraged to apply. But finding people who might not have an address or phone listed presents a problem, so getting the word out to the public is the job since there is a three year limitation of the three year time limited Proposition 47.
6000 offenders have been released from prison, and all eyes are on the benefit of having the means to have a fresh start for the offenders, and for their families. How to address the interest and concern for these predominantly people of color as President Obama, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton have all stated is the challenge our nation must face. Black Lives Matter is a response about the conditions that generate poverty and leave people behind, in and out of prison, and they are calling to action a different response and a change in court and police protocol.
Black Lives Matter takes a strong position calling out the need to reverse a attitudes and actions that systematically over the past decades has been the basis for the mass incarceration of many young black and brown males who occupy our prisons. The deaths of Michael Brown initiated the forming of Black Lives Matter, by founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Black Lives Matter is criticized by those don’t agree with their demonstrations, but more uncomfortable than demonstrations are young people of color, men and women, dying from actions by police.
Out of prisons and into their families and communities where there is access to jobs and homes is the goal of Proposition 47. It calls for ending the cost of prison not only through our taxes, but to address the heartbreaking, family fracturing and community altering waste of predominantly young black lives, and the families who support them. A little known fact is that it is the families who pay often for court costs even with public defenders on average $13,000; a burden added to the costs of contact through visits and phone calls as reported by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights as a result of their study.
As we see the 6000 released enter society, there is the demand for equity for those who have paid for their crimes and can now start new lives. All eyes on California moving ahead in meeting the end of private prisons for profit and investment in people, in families and in community by having the health services and job training opportunities that Proposition 47 has called for from those funds that would have been the cost for the released to stay incarcerated or in the court system. California is pulling ahead and bringing together the structure that offers hope and redemption, not despair and recidivism. The end of prison as a private for profit business is the first step, as President Obama stated, in healing the injuries and damage of our broken court and prison system, and that is where California will lead the nation.
Washington Post Out of Jail
NPR 6000 non violent offenders released
San Diego One Year after Proposition 47
Who Pays: The True Cost of the Incarcerated