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

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Proposition 47
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Status:On the ballot

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

The initiative, if it is approved by the state's voters, would reduce the penalty for most nonviolent crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. Specifically, the initiative would:[1]

  • Mandate misdemeanors instead of felonies for “non-serious, nonviolent crimes,” such as petty theft and drug possession, unless the defendant has prior convictions for violent and serious crimes.
  • Permit re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative lists as misdemeanors. About 10,000 inmates would be eligible for resentencing, according to Lenore Anderson of Californians for Safety and Justice.[2]
  • Require 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.
  • Create a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. The fund would 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.
  • Distribute 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 would require misdemeanor sentencing instead of felony for the following crimes:[1]

  • Shoplifting, where the value of property stolen does not exceed $950
  • Theft, where the value of the stolen 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
  • Possession of a narcotic drug
  • Possession of concentrated cannabis

The initiative is being pushed by George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney, and William Lansdowne, former San Diego Police Chief.[3]

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

Text of measure

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

Ballot title:

Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Official summary:

"Requires misdemeanor sentence instead of felony for petty theft, receiving stolen property, and forging/writing bad checks when value or amount involved is $950 or less. Requires misdemeanor sentence instead of felony for certain drug possession offenses. Allows felony sentence for these offenses if person has previous conviction for crimes such as rape, murder or child molestation or is a 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."

Fiscal impact statement:

(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, which would be spent on truancy prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and victim services. Net county criminal justice system savings that could reach the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually."


Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools 2014.jpg

The organization leading the campaign in support of the initiative is the Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools.[4]


  • California Democratic Party[5]
  • San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón (D)[6]
  • Former San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne
  • B. Wayne Hughes Jr., businessman and philanthropist
  • Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke[7]


Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools summarized their 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. [8]

—Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools, [9]

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. [8]

—Kathy Young-Hood, [10]

Other arguments in favor of the initiative include:

  • 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."[6]
  • 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."[6]


Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of June 27, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $1,300,017
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $0

One ballot measure campaign committee was registered in support of the initiative as of June 27, 2014:[11]

Committee Amount raised Amount spent
Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools $1,300,017 $1,017,016
Total $1,300,017 $1,017,016

The following were the donors who contributed to the campaign supporting the initiative as of June 27, 2014:[11]

Donor Amount
Atlantic Advocacy Fund $600,000
B. Wayne Hughes, Jr. $250,000
Open Society Policy Center $210,112
M. Quinn Delaney $100,000
Committee for Three Strikes Reform $14,904


There is no organized opposition campaigning against the initiative as of June 27, 2014.[7]

Path to the ballot

2014 propositions
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June 3
Proposition 41Approveda
Proposition 42Approveda
November 4
Proposition 1
Proposition 2
Proposition 45
Proposition 46
Proposition 47
Proposition 48
EndorsementsFull text
Ballot titlesFiscal impact
Local measures
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.[6]
  • On June 26, 2014, the initiative was certified for the November 4, 2014 ballot. 587,806 signatures were reported as valid.[12]

Cost of signature collection:

The cost of collecting the signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot came to $937,836.

The signature vendor was PCI Consultants, Inc.

See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs

Similar measures

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