17 Mar We Must Stay Vigilant on Prop. 47
By Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer
Experience has taught us that a “lock them up and throw away the key” approach has made America the world leader in incarceration and an embarrassment around the world. That is why I strongly supported the passage of Proposition 47, which reduced sentences for non-violent, non-serious drug and property crimes.
That is why the current gap in savings between the governor’s released budget of $29 million and the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) projection of $100 – $200 million must be reconciled. This is a huge difference and I lean towards the LAO’s numbers.
We need to tackle overcrowding in our prisons and heavy-handed sentencing that inmates receive throughout the state. This is an issue of equitable punishment and treatment for those locked up in our prisons.
Many of the individuals that benefit from Proposition 47’s resentencing and reclassification are African American and Latino people from communities like my 59th Assembly District in South Los Angeles. They come from broken homes, are either under-employed or unemployed, poorly educated and lack job skills.
Those addicted to drugs are really in need of treatment rather than harsh punishment. We knew Proposition 47 would do two things right away: reduce sentences and release inmates from the state prison system, and bring huge savings due to the reduction of inmates.
These two factors are very important as to how we as a state prepare local municipalities to handle the released offenders back into society. My colleagues and I in the state legislature are monitoring carefully how this new system works for everyone.
As the former Chair of the Public Safety Subcommittee of the Budget Committee, I was the point Assemblymember ushering through budget legislation that funds criminal justice issues throughout the state. And I am happy to report that in the last three years we have increased funds toward needed services and programs, including public safety.
Still, it has not been easy to direct funds toward reducing recidivism, supporting rehabilitation programs and offering grants to service providers. During last year’s budget process, I told Gov. Jerry Brown that it was time to put rehabilitation back in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. We eventually won nearly $100 million for rehabilitation services.
Millions of dollars will hit the streets to help people in need, but it won’t be enough. I encourage probation departments, school districts, service providers, family members and community leaders to make sure that we fight for these funds and deliver the necessary services in an efficient and productive manner.
For more information on the process, I recommend visiting the Board of State and Community Corrections’ website at www.bscc.ca.gov. I also welcome your feedback so please contact my office at (213) 744-2111 or visit my website at www.asmdc.org/a59. We are making great progress in this fight for equitable justice but we must stay vigilant or else WE might recidivate.
Community Coalition will be hosting a Town Hall with Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer on April 23. For more information, contact Patricia Guerra at (323) 750-9087.