As our county’s chief law enforcement officials, we urge the people of Santa Barbara County to vote “no” on Proposition 47.
Despite being referred to as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” we believe this measure will actually make our neighborhoods and schools less safe. Reducing the penalties for gun theft, possession of date rape drugs, agricultural crime, and other serious offenses will expose our communities to increased criminality. Repeat offenders who commit thefts, forgeries, or fraud (including identity theft) where losses are less than $950 will face minimal consequences due to statutory changes in the proposed legislation. Converting felonies to misdemeanors removes discretion from prosecutors and judges in dealing with repeat offenders and will actually allow more offenders to escape gun ownership restrictions.
By reducing penalties for possession of dangerous drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine from felonies to misdemeanors, Prop. 47 will also remove inducements for offenders to seek drug treatment in exchange for reduced sentences or expunged criminal records. That’s why the National Association of Drug Courts Professionals strongly opposes Proposition 47.
By releasing as many as 10,000 felons from our prison system, most of whom have extensive criminal histories, Proposition 47 will also significantly decrease the chances that Criminal Justice Realignment will succeed. Dumping thousands of felons into county jails and onto our streets will only exacerbate the problems of overcrowded jails and diminished frontline resources that are currently faced by law enforcement agencies across California. This measure could also devastate our local efforts to supervise and rehabilitate offenders. Local governments, law enforcement, courts, and treatment providers have worked diligently together to ensure that the landmark reforms established by Realignment achieve the goals of reducing pressure on the state prison system, mitigating costs, and reducing recidivism.
Proposition 47 is a poorly drafted piece of proposed legislation that is misguided, over-reaching, and contains far too many loopholes. By going straight to the ballot, proponents bypassed the traditional legislative process and sought no meaningful input from legislators or major law enforcement stakeholders. Our system works best when elected officials and stakeholders have the ability to identify problems and collaboratively craft rational solutions. Proposition 47 evades that proven process and merely requires an up or down vote on a series of extraordinarily significant and treacherous actions. That’s why not a single serving California sheriff, police chief, or major law enforcement organization appears on Proposition 47’s endorsement list.
On November 4, we urge you to stand with law enforcement, crime victims, labor, the business community, and local governments in voting “no” on Proposition 47.
Bill Brown is sheriff of Santa Barbara County, and Joyce E. Dudley is district attorney of Santa Barbara County.