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California Proposition 47, Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative (2014)

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Proposition 47
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California Proposition 47, the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative, was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in California as an initiated state statute. The measure was approved.

The initiative reduces the classification of most "nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes" from a felony to a misdemeanor. Specifically, the initiative:[1][2]

  • Mandates misdemeanors instead of felonies for “non-serious, nonviolent crimes," unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes. A list of crimes that will be affected by the penalty reduction are listed below.
  • Permits re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative reduces to misdemeanors. About 10,000 inmates will be eligible for resentencing, according to Lenore Anderson of Californians for Safety and Justice.[3]
  • Requires a “thorough review” of criminal history and risk assessment of any individuals before re-sentencing to ensure that they do not pose a risk to the public.
  • Creates a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. The fund will receive appropriations based on savings accrued by the state during the fiscal year, as compared to the previous fiscal year, due to the initiative’s implementation. Estimates range from $150 million to $250 million per year.
  • Distributes funds from the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund as follows: 25 percent to the Department of Education, 10 percent to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board and 65 percent to the Board of State and Community Correction.

The measure requires misdemeanor sentencing instead of felony for the following crimes:[1][2]

  • Shoplifting, where the value of property stolen does not exceed $950
  • Grand theft, where the value of the stolen property does not exceed $950
  • Receiving stolen property, where the value of the property does not exceed $950
  • Forgery, where the value of forged check, bond or bill does not exceed $950
  • Fraud, where the value of the fraudulent check, draft or order does not exceed $950
  • Writing a bad check, where the value of the check does not exceed $950
  • Personal use of most illegal drugs

The initiative was pushed by George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney, and William Lansdowne, former San Diego Police Chief.[4]

Supporters of the initiative referred to it as "The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act".



Following Proposition 47's approval in November 2014, inmate populations in prisons began to fall across the state of California. In Los Angeles, which has the country's largest jail system, the inmate population fell from 18,601 in November to 17,285 in January 2015. According to Jody Sharp, a commander with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, narcotics arrest fell one-third and bookings fell by a quarter in January 2015 relative to the previous year.[5]

Garrick Byers, President of the California Public Defenders Association, views Proposition 47 as working. He said, "It reduced the punishment for many crimes from an excessive punishment to a punishment that's more in line with what the crime is. They're still getting a criminal punishment, nobody's getting off free. But it is more commonly probation, more commonly a lower lock-up time, more commonly a punishment that is going to result in rehabilitation."[5]

Others view Proposition 47 as being short-sighted. Los Angeles City Councilman and former LAPD chief Bernard Parks noted that while drug-related arrests fell, thefts and residential burglaries rose. He stated, "But what they failed to consider is that people who are using drugs are also committing other crimes. How do they stay heroin users? How do they support their habit? … People don't want to understand that I can't be a crack addict and have a profession. Nobody's giving me drugs. I rob and burglarize and steal."[6]

KCRA looked into whether inmates released under Proposition 47 ended up back in custody. The news site noted the following on March 16, 2015:[7]

  • In Placer County, 28 inmates have been released since November 2014 and four ended up back in custody. Thus, 14 percent of those released ended up back in custody.
  • In Stanislaus County, 127 inmates have been released and 12 ended up back in custody. That is a nine percent return rate.
  • In Sacramento County, 42 inmates have been released and 25 are back in custody. In other words, 60 percent ended up back in custody.
  • The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has released 3,068 inmates since November and 14 have ended up back in the system. That is a return rate of .005 percent.

Proposed changes

During the California Legislature's 2015 legislative session, a number of politicians introduced bills to amend Proposition 47. If any of these bill are passed and signed by the governor, the changes must go on a 2016 ballot for constituents to vote on. Some of the proposed changes include:[8]

  • Senate Bill 333 and Assembly Bill 46 would allow felony charges to be filed against suspects accused of having certain date-rape drugs. Proposition 47 reduced the personal use of most illegal drugs to misdemeanors.
  • Assembly Bill 390 would require persons convicted of specified misdemeanors to provide DNA samples. California law only requires individuals convicted of felonies to provide DNA samples. Proposition 47 reduced a number of felonies to misdemeanors.
  • Assembly Bill 150 would make stealing a gun a felony crime. Proposition 47 made stealing an item that is valued at less than $950 a misdemeanor. Therefore, stealing a gun valued at less than $950 would be a misdemeanor.
  • Assembly Bill 1104 would allow the issuance of search warrants for misdemeanor crimes that were previously classified as felonies before Proposition 47's passage.

Challenges to changes

Californians for Safety and Justice, a pro-Proposition 47 crime victims organization, rallied in support of the measure. People identifying as crime victims, and who are associated with the organization, lobbied the California Legislature against tampering with the initiative.[9]

Barry Krisberg, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at UC-Berkeley, said he expects groups like Californians for Safety and Justice to have little impact on legislators' decisions because "politicians are still pretty frightened about crossing the law enforcement unions."

Election results

California Proposition 47
Approveda Yes 4,238,156 59.61%

Election results via: California Secretary of State

Text of measure

See also: Ballot titles, summaries and fiscal statements for California's 2014 ballot propositions

Ballot title:[10]

Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Official summary: The long-form summary read:[10]

  • Requires misdemeanor sentence instead of felony for certain drug possession offenses.
  • Requires misdemeanor sentence instead of felony for the following crimes when amount involved is $950 or less: petty theft, receiving stolen property, and forging/writing bad checks.
  • Allows felony sentence for these offenses if person has previous conviction for crimes such as rape, murder, or child molestation or is registered sex offender.
  • Requires resentencing for persons serving felony sentences for these offenses unless court finds unreasonable public safety risk.
  • Applies savings to mental health and drug treatment programs, K–12 schools, and crime victims.[11]

Fiscal impact statement:[10]

(Note: The fiscal impact statement for a California ballot initiative authorized for circulation is jointly prepared by the state's legislative analyst and its Director of Finance.)

  • Net state criminal justice system savings that could reach the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually. These savings would be spent on school truancy and dropout prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and victim services.
  • Net county criminal justice system savings that could reach several hundred million dollars annually.[11]


Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools 2014.jpg

The organization that led the campaign in support of the initiative was Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools.[12]

Karen Long, an organizer for the Community Coalition of Los Angeles, said, “We see this as a social justice. We have been punishing crimes of poverty.”[13]


See also: A full list of supporters


Former officials:



  • American Civil Liberties Union[22]
  • California Democratic Party[23]
  • Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice[16]
  • Victims/Survivors Network of Los Angeles
  • Victims/Survivors Network of San Diego
  • Life After Uncivil Ruthless Acts (LAURA)
  • A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing)
  • Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
  • American Civil Liberties Union of California
  • California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives, Inc.
  • Children's Defense Fund of California
  • Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
  • Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches
  • NAACP – San Diego Branch
  • NAACP – San Jose Branch
  • PICO California
  • Open Society Policy Center[13]
  • Potrero Hill Democratic Club[24]
  • Progressive Christians Uniting
  • The League of Women Voters of California
  • The Sentencing Project
  • The Women's Foundation
  • SEIU California
  • California Federation of Teachers
  • California Labor Federation
  • California Teachers Association
  • California Catholic Conference of Bishops[25]
  • Bend The Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice[26]
  • Presente.org[27]


  • B. Wayne Hughes Jr., businessman and philanthropist
  • Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix
  • Jay Z[28]
  • Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
  • Olivia Wilde, actress[29]

Arguments in favor

A Community Coalition ad titled, "This Family's Story Shows How Prop 47 Can Fix Our Prison System."

Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools summarized the initiative as follows:

Stops wasting prison space on low-level nonviolent crimes: Changes the lowest level nonviolent drug possession and petty theft crimes from felonies to simple misdemeanors. It authorizes resentencing for anyone who is incarcerated for these offenses and poses no threat to public safety. These changes apply to juveniles as well as adults.

Keeps rapists, murderers and child molesters in prison: Maintains the current law for registered sex offenders and anyone with prior convictions for rape, murder or child molestation.

Stops government waste and redirects hundreds of millions from prison spending to K-12 and treatment: California counties will save hundreds of millions annually and state prison reductions will generate between $750 million to $1.25 billion in savings over the next five years alone. Those savings will be shifted into K-12 school programs (25%), victim services (10%) and mental health and drug treatment (65%).

Protects public safety: Focuses law enforcement resources on violent and serious crimes, and directs savings to programs that stop the cycle of crime. Prisoners may only be released if they demonstrate that they are no longer a threat to public safety.

Reduces the collateral consequences of felony convictions for low-level crime: Reduces the barriers that many with felony convictions for low-level nonviolent crimes face to becoming stable and productive citizens, such as employment, housing and access to assistance programs and professional trades. [11]

Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools[30]

Newt Gingrich (R), Speaker of the U.S. House from 1995 to 1999, and B. Wayne Hughes Jr., a businessman and early supporter of Proposition 47, said similar policies have been implemented in "red states," like Texas and South Carolina, and have "shown how reducing prison populations can also reduce cost and crime." The two called on voters to support the proposition, saying, "It's not often the voters can change the course of a criminal justice system. Californians should take advantage of the opportunity and vote yes on Proposition 47." The following is an excerpt from an editorial they co-wrote:

Obviously, we need prisons for people who are dangerous, and there should be harsh punishments for those convicted of violent crimes. But California has been overusing incarceration. Prisons are for people we are afraid of, but we have been filling them with many folks we are just mad at…

Contributing to the growth in the number of prisoners and in prison spending has been a dramatic expansion in the number of felonies. In addition, mandatory minimum sentences have been applied to an increasing number of crimes. These policies have combined to drive up the prison population, as more prisoners serve longer sentences. On top of that, California has an alarmingly high recidivism rate: Six out of 10 people exiting California prisons return within three years.

It makes no sense to send nonserious, nonviolent offenders to a place filled with hardened criminals and a poor record of rehabilitation — and still expect them to come out better than they went in. Studies show that placing low-risk offenders in prison makes them more dangerous when they are released.

Over-incarceration makes no fiscal sense. California spends $62,396 per prisoner each year, and $10 billion overall, on its corrections system. That is larger than the entire state budget of 12 other states. This expenditure might be worth it if we were safer because of it. But with so many offenders returning to prison, we clearly aren't getting as much public safety — or rehabilitation — as we should for this large expenditure.

Meanwhile, California spends only $9,200 per K-12 student, and the average salary for a new teacher is $41,926. And as California built 22 prisons in 30 years, it built only one public university.

California is not alone in feeling the financial (and public safety) consequences of over-incarceration. Several states — politically red states, we would point out — have shown how reducing prison populations can also reduce cost and crime.

Most notably, Texas in 2007 stopped prison expansion plans and instead used those funds for probation and treatment. It has reduced its prison population, closed three facilities and saved billions of dollars, putting a large part of the savings into drug treatment and mental health services. Better yet, Texas' violent crime rates are the lowest since 1977...

The measure is projected to save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars per year, and it will help the state emphasize punishments such as community supervision and treatment that are more likely to work instead of prison time.

If so many red states can see the importance of refocusing their criminal justice systems, California can do the same. [11]

—Newt Gingrich and B. Wayne Hughes Jr.[20]

A Community Coalition ad titled, "Prop 47 helps women put their lives back together."

Bishop Jaime Soto, president of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops and Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, said Proposition 47 received a unanimous endorsement from the state’s Catholic bishops. The state's 10 million Catholics distributed a statement explaining the endorsement. The following is an excerpt from the statement:

All human life is sacred and, therefore, all social policies and actions in the realm of criminal justice – as with all of our individual and societal actions - must begin with respect for the life and dignity of the human person. In the context of criminal justice, this means that we must first stand in solidarity with victims. When families are shattered, communities are ripped apart and lives are destroyed. We must seek healing and restoration to the fullest extent possible…

We must also adequately fund programs to prevent crime. Protecting each of us from harm is among the most basic of government functions. The common good requires a safe, nourishing environment in which all members of society can flourish. It also demands that those who have broken society’s trust are not considered lost but - while paying the price for their actions - are given an opportunity to once more become contributing members of society.

Simultaneously, we must work to eliminate the root causes of crime by recognizing the social value of having good schools and an effective community health system, including mental health. Safe neighborhoods, dynamic educational institutions, and quality, accessible health care provides all of us with security, opportunity, and the chance to prosper together…

A debate on criminal justice practices is long-overdue in California and it requires thoughtful attention. Distilling complex realities to “soft” or “tough” on crime slogans ignores the fact that we are dealing with real human lives, with complicated social dynamics and with the need to balance accountability, justice and fairness in our justice system. Prisons do not make good schools or good mental health programs. Proposition 47 can help us do better than that. [11]

—Rev. Jaime Soto[25]

Kathy Young-Hood of the Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, criticizing the state's plan to expand prisons, said:

The state's proposal to spend about $730 million over two years on for-profit and out-of-state prisons will cause more problems than it solves, especially considering how much we underfund schools, health centers and community programs that can address and prevent crime.

I know firsthand. I've lived in neighborhoods that had too much crime and too few opportunities for our youth. And in 2004, my only child, Roger Kelvin Young Jr., was killed at age 25 when a home invasion occurred at the house he was visiting in San Francisco.

The killer was never identified or caught. The lack of resolution was like another trauma on top of the devastation I felt from the murder itself.

Meanwhile, I see plenty of people going to prison for lesser crimes -- and coming back worse. This experience opened my eyes to how poorly our justice system serves victims and stops cycles of crime. Instead of putting our law enforcement resources toward serious crime and investing in community level prevention and rehabilitation, our prisons cast a costly, wide net -- and let everybody down. [11]

—Kathy Young-Hood[31]

A Community Coalition ad titled, "Are we paying to make our children criminals?."

Other arguments in favor of the initiative included:

  • Businessman B. Wayne Hughes Jr. said, "I am not an apologist for people who break the law ... (but) folks are coming out of prison better criminals than when they came in, and that is not helping to get the state where we need to be. When a mom or dad or kid goes to prison, a grenade goes off and the shrapnel hits everybody, and when enough homes experience this, we lose whole communities, and that's what we have here. Twelve to 14 cents of every dollar spent in California is on incarceration, and meanwhile our infrastructure is falling down. ... This is a situation where the walls of partisanship ought to come down immediately."[17]
  • San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón (D) argued, "I think, increasingly, the public is more aware of the failures of the last 2 1/2 decades of our criminal justice system. The question is: Do we want to make communities safer or just punish people? If we really care about public safety, what we are proposing is a much better model."[17]
  • The AFL-CIO, in the union's official endorsement of Proposition 47, stated, "The impact of mass incarceration can be felt on neighborhoods, families and individuals across the nation. As a result, many already-impoverished neighborhoods have lost thousands of working-age men and women whose lives are forever affected by mass incarceration... The AFL-CIO strongly supports Proposition 47: Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014—which would reduce the impact of a felony conviction on communities, including increasing access to the ballot by those who have been disenfranchised—and encourages affiliate unions to communicate this important matter to their members. Reducing sentences from felonies to misdemeanors also will reduce barriers to unemployment insurance, social services and housing brought about by felony convictions."[32]


Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of December 31, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $10,976,491
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $551,800

Four ballot measure campaign committees were registered in support of the initiative as of December 31, 2014:[33]

Committee Amount raised Amount spent
Women's Foundation of California - Yes on 47 $25,000 $25,000
Yes of Prop. 47, Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools $10,606,070 $9,285,680
Yes on 47 Sponsored by PICO California $260,421 $395,597
California Calls Action Fund - Yes on 47 $85,000 $599,805
Total $10,976,491 $10,306,082

The following were the donors who had contributed $100,000 or more to the campaign supporting the initiative as of December 31, 2014:[33]

Donor Amount
American Civil Liberties Union $3,500,000
Open Society Policy Center $1,460,112
B. Wayne Hughes, Jr. $1,255,000
Atlantic Advocacy Fund $850,000
Molly Munger $325,448
Nick Pritzker $250,000
Reed Hastings $246,664
M. Quinn Delaney $200,000
Cari Tuna $150,000
Steven C. Phillips $125,000
Sean Parker $100,000
Drug Policy Action $100,000



The campaign against the proposition was led by Californians Against Proposition 47.[34]



  • U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D)[35]
  • Shelley Zimmerman, San Diego Chief of Police[36]
  • Nancy O'Malley, Alameda County District Attorney[37]
  • Bill Brown, Santa Barbara County Sheriff
  • Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego County District Attorney
  • John Robertson, Napa County Sheriff
  • Stephen Wagstaffe, San Mateo County District Attorney
  • Mark Peterson, Contra Costa County District Attorney
  • Jill Ravitch, Sonoma County District Attorney
  • Thomas Allman, Mendocino County Sheriff
  • Joyce Dudley, Santa Barbara County District Attorney
  • Michael Webb, Redondo Beach City Attorney
  • David Eyster, Mendocino County District Attorney
  • John McMahon, San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner
  • Steve Freitas, Sonoma County Sheriff
  • Jan Scully, Sacramento County District Attorney
  • Thomas Cavallero, Merced County Sheriff-Coroner
  • Lisa Green, Kern County District Attorney
  • Jon Lopey, Siskiyou County Sheriff
  • Dean Growdon, Lassen County Sheriff
  • Birgit Fladager, Stanislaus County District Attorney
  • Scott Jones, Sacramento County Sheriff
  • Thomas Cooke, Mariposa County District Attorney
  • Greg Hagwood, Plumas County Sheriff
  • David Hollister, Plumas County District Attorney
  • Greg Strickland, Kings County District Attorney
  • Bruce Haney, Trinity County Sheriff
  • Kirk Andrus, Siskiyou County District Attorney
  • Todd Riebe, Amador County District Attorney
  • John Anderson, Madera County Sheriff


  • National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children[37]
  • National Association of Drug Court Professionals
  • California Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • California Police Chiefs Association
  • California District Attorneys Association
  • Crime Victims United
  • League of California Cities
  • San Mateo County Board of Supervisors
  • Klaas Kids
  • Riverside County Board of Supervisors
  • California Retailers Association
  • Crime Victims Action Alliance
  • California Republican Party[38]
  • California State Sheriffs Association
  • California Peace Officers Association
  • California Correctional Supervisors Association

Arguments against

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) said Proposition 47, called the "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act" by supporters, "will do anything but make our communities safer." She elaborated:

Prop. 47 would do two things. First, it would reclassify a wide range of crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. This would mean shorter prison sentences for serious crimes like stealing firearms, identity theft and possessing dangerous narcotics such as cocaine and date rape drugs.

Second, Prop. 47 would result in the resentencing and release of thousands of individuals already convicted of these crimes.

The crimes that would be reclassified from a felony to a misdemeanor are not minor crimes.

For instance, the penalty for stealing a firearm valued at up to $950 would be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, reducing a sentence from up to three years in prison today to a maximum of just 12 months under Prop. 47.

Stolen firearms often end up in the hands of felons and others who cannot legally possess them, where they are used to commit violent crimes. Theft of a firearm should be punished as a felony, plain and simple...

The problem is the definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” is extraordinarily narrow. It covers only those who are at risk of committing eight specific crimes: three specific sex offenses, murder or solicitation to commit murder, assault with a machine gun on a peace officer or firefighter, possession of a weapon of mass destruction or an offense punishable by life in prison or death.

This means an individual at risk of committing serious crimes other than the eight listed above, such as carjacking or robbery, would automatically qualify for resentencing if he is serving time for a crime covered by Prop. 47...

By the time a person has been convicted of a felony covered by the proposition, he has most likely been through the judicial system several times.

Simply put, the reduction in sentences proposed by Proposition 47 would ultimately lead to the release of thousands of dangerous criminals, and a wholesale reclassification of many dangerous felonies as misdemeanors would put the people of California at continued risk going forward.[11]

—U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein[35]

The Alliance for a Safer California had a section on its "No on Prop 47" website labeled "Facts" wherein it gave a list of the organization's arguments for opposition to Proposition 47. The following is an excerpt from the list:

Prop 47 will release dangerous Three Strikes inmates. Prop 47 goes far beyond petty crimes. It rewrites our laws to make it easier for violent Three Strikes felons to gain early release...

Prop 47 will make it impossible to stop many criminals from buying or possessing guns. Under current law, convicted felons can't possess handguns in California. By changing street crimes like purse-snatching and many burglaries into misdemeanors, Prop 47 makes it impossible to stop criminals convicted of these and other offenses from having guns.

Prop 47 is completely unnecessary. Prop 47's backers say their goal is to keep low-level offenders out of prison. What they don't say is that California law already requires this...

Prop 47 rewrites our laws to benefit criminals. Prop 47 is a lengthy piece of legislation with many hidden provisions. Some of the not-so-obvious things Prop 47 will do are:

  • Change crimes like purse and phone snatching -- where thieves grab expensive property right off your body -- into petty theft, the same as stealing a candy bar.
  • Make possession of "date rape" drugs a misdemeanor.
  • Prevent many commercial burglars from being charged with a felony as long as they strike during work hours -- when it's most dangerous for employees.
  • Make stealing a handgun -- which is often done to commit violent crimes -- a misdemeanor in almost all cases.
  • Reduce sentences for muggers, burglars, cocaine and heroin dealers, and other dangerous criminals who pled guilty to lesser offenses like grand theft or possession.
  • Make receiving property obtained through extortion a misdemeanor (up to $950).
  • Make stealing horses and other animals a misdemeanor in many cases.

Prop 47 will hurt consumers. Professional retail thieves, commercial burglars, and identity thieves cost California consumers and businesses millions of dollars every year. Prop 47 slashes penalties for these crimes.

Law enforcement leaders and crime victim advocates overwhelmingly oppose Prop 47. Prop 47 is opposed by every major law enforcement and victim advocate organization in California, including the California District Attorneys Association, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, California Police Chiefs Association, California State Sheriffs Association, and Crime Victims United. [11]

—Alliance for a Safer California[39]

The California Police Chiefs Association called the proposition a "dangerous and radical package of ill-conceived policies." The association made four arguments against the initiative:

  • Prop 47 will require the release of thousands of dangerous inmates. Felons with prior convictions for armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, child abuse, residential burglary, arson, assault with a deadly weapon, and many other serious crimes will be eligible for early release under Prop 47. These early releases will be virtually mandated by Proposition 47. While Prop 47’s backers say judges will be able to keep dangerous offenders from being released early, this is simply not true. Prop 47 prevents judges from blocking the early release of prisoners except in very rare cases. For example, even if the judge finds that the inmate poses a risk of committing crimes like kidnapping, robbery, assault, spousal abuse, torture of small animals, carjacking or felonies committed on behalf of a criminal street gang, Proposition 47 requires their release.
  • Prop 47 would eliminate automatic felony prosecution for stealing a gun. Under current law, stealing a gun is a felony, period. Prop 47 would redefine grand theft in such a way that theft of a firearm could only be considered a felony if the value of the gun is greater than $950. Almost all handguns (which are the most stolen kind of firearm) retail for well below $950. People don’t steal guns just so they can add to their gun collection. They steal guns to commit another crime. People stealing guns are protected under Proposition 47.
  • Prop 47 undermines laws against sex-crimes. Proposition 47 will reduce the penalty for possession of drugs used to facilitate date-rape to a simple misdemeanor. No matter how many times the suspected sexual predator has been charged with possession of date-rape drugs, it will only be a misdemeanor, and the judge will be forced to sentence them as if it were their very first time in court.
  • Prop 47 will burden our criminal justice system. This measure will overcrowd jails with dangerous felons who should be in state prison and jam California’s courts with hearings to provide “Get Out of Prison Free” cards.


—California Police Chiefs Association[40]

San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said she opposed Proposition 47. She elaborated:

I do not support this in any way, shape or form. It will require the release of thousands of dangerous inmates... They talk about 10,000 felons [who would be] eligible for early release. It would be virtually mandated and would prevent judges from blocking the early release of prisoners except in really very rare cases.

It also undermines the laws against sex crimes because it would reduce the penalty for possession of drugs used to facilitate date rape to just a simple misdemeanor.

It basically eliminates the automatic felony prosecution for stealing a gun. In the first six months of this year, in the city of San Diego we’ve had 115 guns that were stolen in burglaries. And I can tell you that people are not going to steal guns so they can add them to their gun collection. They steal them to commit crimes. ... Under Proposition 47, it would redefine grand theft in such a way that theft of a firearm could only be considered a felony if the value of the gun is greater than $950. I can tell you that almost all handguns, which are the majority of the guns that are stolen, retail below $950...

Just look at the title [of the proposition]. When they say “safe,” there’s nothing safe about it. [11]

—Shelley Zimmerman[36]

Other arguments against the proposition included:

  • The National Association of Drug Court Professionals, a group opposing Proposition 47, said, "Proposition 47 provides for virtually no accountability, supervision or treatment for addicted offenders. Prop 47 removes the legal incentive for seriously addicted offenders to seek treatment... Proposition 47 turns a blind eye to over two decades of research and practice that demonstrates addicted offenders need structure and accountability in addition to treatment to become sober..."[41]


One ballot measure campaign committee was registered in opposition to the initiative as of December 31, 2014:[33]

Committee Amount raised Amount spent
Californians Against Prop. 47, Sponsored by California Public Saftey Institute $551,800 $549,792
Total $551,800 $549,792

The following were the donors who had contributed $10,000 or more to the campaign opposing the initiative as of December 31, 2014:[33]

Donor Amount
Peace Officers Research Association of California Political Issues Committee $286,000
Aladdin Bail Bonds $49,900
California Association of Highway Patrolmen PAC $25,000
California State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police Issues Committee $25,000
Lexington National Insurance Corp. $25,000
California Narcotics Officers Association $13,500
Artichoke Joe's Casino $10,000

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of California ballot measures, 2014


  • East Bay Express: "This badly needed measure would save the state hundreds of million of dollars in prison costs each year, and the savings would be used to prevent school dropouts and truancy, and to pay for more mental health and drug abuse treatment programs. It's a no-brainer."[42]
  • Los Angeles Times: "Proposition 47 would do a great deal to stop the ongoing and unnecessary flow of Californians to prison for nonviolent and nonserious offenses and would, crucially, reduce the return flow of offenders from prison back to their neighborhoods in a condition — hardened by their experience, hampered by their felony records, unready for employment or education, likely mentally ill or addicted — that leaves them only too likely to offend again. It is a good and timely measure that can help the state make smarter use of its criminal justice and incarceration resources. The Times strongly recommends a "yes" vote on Proposition 47."[43]
  • Marin Independent Journal: "The goals of Proposition 47 are to reduce prison population, reduce taxpayer costs and treat offenders in a more effective way. It directs expected savings to schools and safe-neighborhood programs. The right way make [sic] sure that punishments fit the crimes is to give judges greater leeway to dole out effective sentences for crimes. That's why we reluctantly endorse Proposition 47."[44]
  • Monterey Herald: "We have our reservations — early release of some prisoners may not be a good idea and any savings seem to disappear — but the measure overall could save millions and is worth supporting."[45]
  • San Francisco Chronicle: "California cannot afford to be sending people to prison for drug possession, petty theft and other relatively low-level crimes. It’s simply not wise as a matter of fiscal prudence (with prison costs now exceeding $60,000 a year per inmate) or public safety, when resources could be better spent on crime prevention."[46]
  • San Jose Mercury News: "California voters need to muster the courage their Legislature sadly lacks by approving Proposition 47 this fall. It will bring balance to sentencing, rehabilitation and treatment programs and reduce the state's highest-in-the-nation recidivism rate."[47]


  • The Bakersfield Californian: "Recently, the Legislature made a timid effort to revise charging and sentencing in California. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, noting his administration is scheduled to issue a comprehensive report and recommendations for reforming the system next year. Voters should reject Proposition 47 in November and give the governor a chance to recommend reforms."[48]
  • The San Diego Union-Tribune: "That’s the idea. But the measure is horribly drafted, for all the reasons Zimmerman cited. Heroin and cocaine as misdemeanors? Date rape drugs, too? Gun theft as a misdemeanor? Just how gullible are California voters? Proposition 47 will test the question. In the end, we think voters will see the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” for what it really is: misguided, wrong-headed public policy."[36]
  • The Modesto Bee: "Reject Prop. 47, the ‘catch-and-release’ law: This proposition has been titled The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act by proponents – a spectacular example of Orwellian “double-speak.” It is anything but safe."[49]


See also: Polls, 2014 ballot measures
California Proposition 47 (2014)
Poll Support OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
The Field Poll
6/26/2014 - 7/19/2014
Public Policy Institute of California
9/8/2014 - 9/15/2014
Public Policy Institute of California
10/12/2014 - 10/19/2014
The Field Poll
10/15/2014 - 10/28/2014
USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll
10/22/2014 - 10/29/2014
AVERAGES 57% 25.2% 17.4% +/-3.2 1,602.8
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.

Path to the ballot

See also: Signature requirements for ballot measures in California
  • William Lansdowne and George Gascon submitted a letter requesting a title and summary on December 19, 2013.
  • A title and summary was issued by the Attorney General of California's office on February 14, 2014.
  • 504,760 valid signatures were required for qualification purposes.
  • Supporters had until July 14, 2014, to collect the required signatures. Filing sufficient signatures by that date would not have allowed the initiative to compete on the November 4, 2014, ballot.
  • The Secretary of State’s suggested signature filing deadline for the November 4, 2014, ballot was April 18, 2014.
  • On May 5 and May 6, supporters turned in an estimated 800,000 signatures.[17]
  • On June 26, 2014, the initiative was certified for the November 4, 2014, ballot. 587,806 signatures were reported as valid.[50]

Cost of signature collection:

The cost of collecting the signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot came to $1,847,882. That is equivalent to $3.66 per signature.

The signature vendor was PCI Consultants, Inc.

See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs

Similar measures

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "California Proposition 47 reduced penalties."

Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.

California Proposition 47, Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative (2014) - Google News Feed

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See also

Suggest a link

External links

Basic information



Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 California General Election Official Voter Information Guide November 2014, "Text of Proposed Laws," accessed September 8, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 California General Election Official Voter Information Guide November 2014, "Prop 47 Analysis by the Legislative Analyst," accessed September 8, 2014
  3. The San Francisco Appeal, "CA Voters Will Decide On DA Gascon-Backed Plan To Reduce Sentences For Low-Level Crimes," June 27, 2014
  4. The Tribune, "Capitol Alert: Measure to reduce sentences for theft, drugs on California ballot," June 26, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 KPCC, "County jail populations across California dip after Prop 47," February 2, 2015
  6. Los Angeles Times, "Prop. 47 is achieving its main goal, but with unintended consequences," January 30, 2015
  7. KCRA, "Inmates released under Prop 47 -- Where are they now?" March 16, 2015
  8. Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Lawmakers tinker with crime measure passed by California voters, cite unintended consequences," March 1, 2015
  9. Los Angeles Times, "Different kind of crime-victim group lobbies against rolling back Prop. 47," April 25, 2015
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 California Official Voter Information Guide for the November 4, 2014, General Election, "Proposition 47 Official Title and Summary," accessed September 16, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 11.9 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  12. Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools, "Homepage," accessed June 27, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 Los Angeles Times, "Prop. 47 would cut penalties for 1 in 5 criminals in California," October 11, 2014
  14. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, "Prop 47: How I'm Voting On This Controversial Issue," October 8, 2014
  15. Orange County Register, "Rand Paul and B. Wayne Hughes Jr.: Republicans should back Prop. 47," October 28, 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1 Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools, "Who Supports Reform," accessed September 8, 2014
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 San Francisco Gate, "Nonviolent crimes measure collects 800,000-plus signatures," May 6, 2014
  18. KTVU, "'The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act' gets green light for ballot," June 27, 2014
  19. NBC Bay Area, "Santa Clara County DA Rosen comes out in support of Prop 47," September 5, 2014
  20. 20.0 20.1 Los Angeles Times, "What California can learn from the red states on crime and punishment," September 16, 2014
  21. City of Pasadena City Council, "Council Meeting Recap," October 6, 2014
  22. The Sacramento Bee, "National ACLU spends big for California’s Proposition 47," October 22, 2014
  23. Post-Periodical, "State Democrats Vote to Support Ballot Measures," July 14, 2014
  24. Potrero Hill Democratic Club, "Endorsements for the November 4, 2014 General Election," accessed October 9, 2014
  25. 25.0 25.1 Business Wire, "California Catholic Bishops Endorse Proposition 47 on November 2014 Ballot," September 9, 2014
  26. Bend The Arc, "California 2014 Voter Guide," accessed October 24, 2014
  27. Presente.org, "Reap What You Sow," accessed October 31, 2014
  28. The Root, "Jay Z Advocates for Prison Reform During California Concert, August 5, 2014
  29. Huffington Post, "Our Current Justice System Is Tearing Apart Families," October 29, 2014
  30. Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools, "Our Reform Proposal: The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014," accessed June 27, 2014
  31. Inside Bay Area, "Simply spending more on prisons is not the solution," September 9, 2013
  32. AFL-CIO, "Supporting California Proposition 47: Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014," July 31, 2014
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 California Secretary of State, "Campaign Finance," accessed April 30, 2014
  34. Californians Against Proposition 47, "Homepage," accessed October 31, 2014
  35. 35.0 35.1 Los Angeles Daily News, "Prop. 47 will make Californians less safe: Dianne Feinstein," October 15, 2014
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 The San Diego Union-Tribune, "Prop. 47 is anything but ‘safe’ for neighborhoods and schools," September 7, 2014
  37. 37.0 37.1 Alliance for a Safer California - Vote No on Proposition 47, "Groups and Leaders Opposed to Prop 47," accessed October 12, 2014
  38. Santa Monica Mirror, "State Republicans Vote To Back Two Measures On November Ballot, Oppose Two," September 22, 2014
  39. Alliance for a Safer California - Vote No on Prop 47, "Facts," accessed September 25, 2014
  40. California Police Chiefs Association, "Proposition 47," accessed September 10, 2014
  41. National Association of Drug Court Professionals, "NADCP Opposes California’s Proposition 47," accessed October 12, 2014
  42. East Bay Express, "Vote Yes on Measure BB and Prop 47," September 24, 2014
  43. Los Angeles Times, "Endorsement: Yes on Proposition 47," October 6, 2014
  44. Marin Independent Journal, "Editorial: IJ's stands on Nov. 4 state propositions," October 15, 2014
  45. Monterey Herald, "Editorial: More recommendations on state ballot measures," September 18, 2014
  46. San Francisco Chronicle, "Chronicle recommends: Yes on Proposition 47," September 19, 2014
  47. San Jose Mercury News, "Mercury News editorial: Prop. 47 will help California break cycle of crime," September 25, 2014
  48. The Bakersfield Californian, "Prop. 47 about lawmakers' lack of courage," October 14, 2014
  49. Modesto Bee,"Reject Prop. 47, the ‘catch-and-release’ law," October 5, 2014 (dead link)
  50. California Secretary of State, "Signature Count for 13-0060," accessed June 27, 2014