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Proposition 47: Its Effects in California

Updated: Mar 15

In the state of California, residents have been dealing with the repercussions of Proposition 47 since it first passed in 2014. From business owners to criminal offenders themselves, this proposition has brought a plethora of harm to citizens. 


For those not quite up to speed: “Proposition 47 (Prop 47) was a ballot measure passed by California voters… The law made some non-violent property crimes, where the value does not exceed $950, into misdemeanors. It also made some simple drug possession offenses into misdemeanors.”


In implementing this proposition, the state of California sought to focus prison spending on the most violent and serious offenses. By taking the heat off criminals who commit smaller offenses, it was hoped that the justice system could ensure criminals who commit more serious offenses receive the correct level of punishment. 


Unfortunately, Prop. 47 has created a massive contradiction, allowing thousands of criminal offenders to commit theft as they please. By increasing the value offenders must surpass to commit a felony to more than double the previous amount, from stealing $450 of goods to $950, those who are inclined to commit theft have significantly more leeway under Prop. 47 to do so without facing serious charges.


Since the proposition was passed in 2014, larceny thefts have increased by 9% in comparison to other states. 


These thefts aren’t harmless. Stealing from an establishment can quickly become dangerous, even fatal, to those in the vicinity of a robbery. It is not uncommon for offenders to possess and use guns to quicken their robbery, which can end in the death of store owners, managers, or employees alike. For example, 26-year-old Home Depot employee, Blake Mohs, was killed earlier this year while confronting a shoplifter. Proposition 47 increases risks like this.


Store owners are equally scared and frustrated with the increased frequency of theft. In efforts to protect both employees and business interests, stores like Target, Nordstrom, Old Navy and more have had to close down stores in areas where crime has seemingly run rampant, such as the Bay Area of California. This inadvertently affects honest citizens, who depend on these stores for goods and services.


Most shockingly, due to Prop. 47’s reduction of the severity of drug possession offenses, statewide participation in drug courts has decreased by 67%. Drug courts offer “supervised treatment and rehabilitation programs where successful completion resulted in a dismissal of criminal cases.”


Individuals with drug offenses now avoid measures pushing them towards treatment or rehabilitation entirely, since their offenses are no longer considered serious enough to warrant this response. 


Proposition 47 has reduced the perceived severity of theft to offenders, creating a butterfly effect of thoughtless crime and harm toward citizens. Other states would do well to note California’s failure in this area. 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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