This isn’t the time to reverse course. However, that’s what would happen under Proposition 20, an initiative on the Nov. 3 ballot sponsored by groups that have a lot to gain from a harsh “lock ’em up” approach, including a union representing prison guards.
Proposition 20 would restrict access to parole and make inmates who are denied parole wait two years instead of one for a second chance at supervised release. Even with the incentives approved by voters in 2016, a relatively small proportion of inmates is released on parole: just 19% of the 4,600 who were given consideration in 2019.
Proposition 20 also would create new felonies for repeat misdemeanor thefts and organized shoplifting while restoring felony status, and thereby raising the maximum sentence from six months to three years, for some thefts of as little as $250. (The present threshold is $950, and it was $450 before Proposition 47.)
Taxpayers spend more than $50,000 a year on each of the approximately 100,000 inmates in California’s prison system. That’s about five times more than the state’s per-student investment in K-12 education.
. . .[I]t would be unwise to abandon shorter sentences or incentives for inmates to prepare themselves to be productive citizens, especially with the coronavirus pandemic chewing up the rainy day fund and creating a deep budget deficit. The Press Democrat recommends a no vote on Proposition 20.
Paid for by No on Prop. 20, Californians Against the Prison Spending Scam
Committee Major funding from
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Open Society Policy Center