This week, California dealt a big blow to the prison system. One so significant, that it may change the way we view incarceration all together. With the passing of Proposition 47, nonviolent felonies like shoplifting and drug possession will officially be downgraded to misdemeanors...But why does this matter?
- As with other misdemeanors, the new maximum sentence will be one year in jail, down from a maximum of three years.
- Anyone already serving time for a felony conviction may be able to petition for a new sentence—even those incarcerated under the state's “three strikes” law.
- As many as 10,000 people may be eligible for early release from state prisons. Additionally, courts are expected to dispense around 40,000 fewer felony convictions annually.
- The new measure will save hundreds of millions of dollars on prisons that will be redirected to education, mental health, crime victims, and addiction services.
With the passing of Proposition 47, we are witnessing the dismantling of the school to prison pipeline, an arrangement that has sustained policies and practices that have pushed our nation’s most at-risk children out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Essentially, California voters have reversed the prioritization of incarceration over education. And that's why I'm excited.
As a former at-risk youth, the passing of Proposition 47 brings me so much joy! I have never been to prison, but I know plenty of young men who have, many of whom had bad experiences in primary school, like me.
I can't even recall how many times I was written off by teachers and school administrators who believed that I wouldn't make much of myself. Fortunately, due to wonderful mentors and interventions, I was redirected from a very clear trajectory. Unfortunately, many young men weren’t as lucky. Thankfully, under Prop 47, they will be given a second chance.
According to SuspensionsStories.com:
- 40% of students expelled from U.S schools each year are Black.
- 70% of students involved in "in-school" arrest or referred to law enforcement are Black or Latino.
- Black students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than whites.
- Black and Latino Students are twice as likely to NOT GRADUATE high school as whites.
- 68% of all males in state and federal prison do not have a high school diploma.
Thank you, California, for deciding to reinvest into our children. I’m ready to see the pendulum of justice swing.