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April 18, 2024

Notable criminal justice counter-initiative looking likely to come before California voters

As reported in this local article, headlined "Backers say they have enough signatures to qualify Prop 47 rollback initiative," an interesting criminal justice ballot measure looks likely to come before California voters this fall.  Here are some of the details:

Critics who blame California’s 2014 Proposition 47 for runaway drug addiction, retail theft and urban squalor said Thursday they have collected enough signatures to qualify a November ballot measure that would restore penalties for serial thieves and treatment requirements for addicts.

Backers including owners of small businesses, social justice leaders and drug victim families gathered in San Francisco and Los Angeles to announce they have collected about 900,000 voter signatures, significantly more than the 546,651 required by April 23, and are turning them in to the Attorney General’s Office.

“Prop 47 achieved notable success in making California’s criminal justice system more equitable,” supporters of the proposed Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act. "However, it led to unintended consequences over the past decade — repeat and often organized retail theft, inner-city store closings, and difficulty convincing people to seek drug and mental health treatment — that can only be corrected by the voters at the ballot box with modest amendments to Prop 47.”

Prop 47 was among a series of laws and initiatives over the last 15 years aimed at depopulating overcrowded California prisons and addressing social justice concerns that have since been blamed for spurring brazen retail thefts, store closures and unchecked drug addiction. Promoted to voters as the “Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act,” Prop 47 reduced most drug possession and property crimes valued at $950 or less to misdemeanors and allowed for resentencing of those convicted of felonies for those offenses....

Prop 47 passed with nearly 60% voter approval.  An earlier effort to toughen up some of the penalties reduced by Prop 47 — Proposition 20 in 2020 — failed.  The impact on crime of Prop 47 continues to be furiously debated....  But supporters of the proposed November initiative say there’s no way to fix the state’s theft and drug problems without walking back parts of Prop 47....

Supporters stress that the proposed initiative would amend but not repeal Prop 47. It would make a third conviction for retail theft a felony, regardless of the amount stolen.  Before Prop 47, a second conviction would become a felony, but the 2014 initiative eliminated consequences for repeat offenses.  The proposed measure also would add penalties for dealing fentanyl, a cheap and deadly synthetic opioid, and provide incentives for convicted addicts to seek treatment.

April 18, 2024 at 10:17 PM | Permalink


I don't think incarceration will solve someone's drug addiction. Opponents of Proposition 47 should endorse drug and mental health treatment if they are upset over drug overdoses. The provision addressing shoplifting is probably wholly endorsed by business owners. I'd wager inflation and stagnant wages has led to people shoplifting. I doubt people think, "I can shoplift repeatedly as I will only be charged with a misdemeanor."

Posted by: Anon | Apr 18, 2024 10:30:20 PM

"I'd wager inflation and stagnant wages has led to people shoplifting."

I'd wager dishonesty, lack of consequences, and automatic excuse-making (like yours) has led to people shoplifting.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 18, 2024 11:42:26 PM

Bill - incarcerating people for the minor crime of shoplifting will only make it more likely that the offender will reoffend after release. Brett Miler

Posted by: Brett Miler | Apr 19, 2024 7:08:48 AM

Brett --

Maybe people could refrain from shoplifting because its morally wrong to steal -- ya think? Or is it only everyone else who needs to have a conscience?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 19, 2024 11:48:14 PM

Bill - jailing people for minor offenses like shoplifting instead of dealing with the root causes of shoplifting (inflation, stagnant wages as anon mentioned) only makes it more likely that they will reoffend upon release. You are too quick to blame individuals for bigger societal problems and use more jails and prisons. Brett Miler

Posted by: Brett Miler | Apr 20, 2024 9:43:22 AM


Does this mean you are voting for Trump over “Bidenomics?”

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 20, 2024 8:55:21 PM

Tarlsqtr - I will probably have to vote for Trump over Biden as the country is in worse shape under Biden than it was under Trump (and he also signed the First Step Act which reduced the federal prison population). Brett Miler

Posted by: Brett Miler | Apr 20, 2024 9:30:13 PM

Brett Miller --

"I will probably have to vote for Trump over Biden as the country is in worse shape under Biden than it was under Trump..."

I see we have an area of agreement!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 20, 2024 11:56:13 PM

Drug addiction is a scourge. But the problem with making drugs illegal is that one creates an incentive for horrific drug smuggling organizations.

I have to wonder if it might work better to make the drugs legal, provided they are sold in packaging that emphasizes their effects. If anyone other than the end user removes the packaging, then penalties would kick in.

No idea if this has been tried anywhere, or if it ends up better or worse than the current system.

Drug criminalization causes all sorts of horrible problems. But does a better alternative exist?

Posted by: William Jockusch | Apr 23, 2024 10:19:41 PM

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