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California could release up to 10,000 nonviolent offenders

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Zach McAuliffe is a University of Dayton alumni with degrees in journalism and English. He wants to present people with all the facts they need to make informed decisions on the world around them. He also enjoys Shakespeare and long walks on the beach with his puppy Lily.

As part of a proposition California passed on Tuesday, the state could see up to 10,000 incarcerated people eligible for early release.

Proposition 47, known in California as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, will reclassify various offenses which were previously felonies, as misdemeanors.  Some of these offenses include personal illicit drug use, shoplifting, and theft under $950.

Analysts have said they think with this proposition in place, California will hand out 40,000 less felonies each year, and the state would also save up to $150 million dollars.

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The Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center wrote, according to Common Dreams, “The current sentencing and correctional system in California is costly and inefficient and voters would prefer their tax dollars to be spent on education and health care rather than incarceration.”

Other uses for the saved money include supporting victim services, mental health programs, and drug treatment programs.  Marc Mauer from the Sentencing Project, said, “This historic vote demonstrates support to advance a public safety strategy beyond incarceration to include treatment and prevention.”

The proposition will also apply to people currently being held in the California prison system, which is how those incarcerated people could apply for early release.

Similar legislature has been enacted in other states in the past few years.

Georgia, for example passed a law in 2012 which, according to FiveThirtyEight, allowed alternative sentencing for low-level, nonviolent offenders.  The state’s prison population dropped by about 14 percent by the end of 2013 and the crime rate dropped by about 4 percent as well.  The state also saved approximately $20 million in the first year of enacting the new law.

Other states have enacted similar legislature in the past few years, but the laws were enacted to recently to offer any significant data.

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