Prop. 47 may result in some CA offenders serving more time in prison

By easing prison crowding, California’s Proposition 47 may cause some offenders to spend more time in jail serving larger proportions of their sentences.

As many people in Torrance know, when Proposition 47 passed, several nonviolent crimes were reclassified as misdemeanors. The measure effectively reduced incarceration for certain drug possession and property crimes that could previously result in felony charges, according to The Los Angeles Times. However, the legislation may also be increasing the likelihood that people convicted of other offenses will spend more time incarcerated.

Fewer early releases

The Los Angeles Times explains that in some areas, including Los Angeles, county inmates typically served fractions of their terms. Many inmates benefitted from early release programs that were designed to ease prison overcrowding. In recent years, some inmates in Los Angeles County have been released after serving just 5 percent of their sentences.

Since Proposition 47 has passed, however, prison overcrowding has become less pressing of an issue. Inmate populations have decreased in several counties, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County. Arrests and bookings have also fallen. For example, following the passage of Proposition 47, the number of drug-related arrests dropped 30 percent at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The number of overall bookings fell 23 percent at the same department.

Due to these changes, convicted inmates may now be more likely to serve their full time or significantly longer terms. For example, after Proposition 47 became effective, Los Angeles County jail officials began increasing the time that inmates would serve. Now, these inmates are expected to complete at least 90 percent of their sentences.

Affected offenders

The Los Angeles Times notes that inmates serving state sentences in county jails are unlikely to be affected by these changes. However, the changes could impact numerous offenders currently serving county sentences, in addition to incoming offenders.

Los Angeles County inmates convicted of more serious charges, such as assault with a deadly weapon, previously served about 40 percent of their sentences. They are now serving 100 percent of their time. Inmates convicted of less serious offenses, such as DUI and burglary, are experiencing similar increases. The average time that these inmates are expected to serve has jumped from 10 or 20 percent to 90 percent.

Ongoing impacts

Proposition 47 may offer benefits for people who are convicted of crimes that the legislation reclassified. These include drug possession for personal use and minor property crimes, such as theft and forgery worth less than $950. However, for other convicted offenders, the new law may indirectly result in more severe sanctions following a criminal conviction.

Given this possibility, anyone facing criminal charges should consider consulting with a defense attorney about strategies for addressing those charges.

Keywords: sentencing, arrest, jail, prison