Commentary: DA Again Laments Prop 47 Reality


For the second year in a row, Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig lamented the effects of Proposition 47. He cited current statistics that show that, while felony filings are down 30 percent, misdemeanor filings are up 60 percent, for an overall increase of 30 percent of criminal cases.

He noted reports from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) which show that California is leading the way in violent crime increases, and violent crime is rising faster in Sacramento than in other large cities. This, he argues, bleeds into what is happening in Yolo County.

“All of the major cities in Yolo County, Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento, have seen increases in violent crime and property crime in 2015,” he said. “We are surrounded by the very imminent threat, and I don’t think it’s going away.”

“We have this large Prop. 47 population which we really don’t have much of a stick any more to get them into treatment,” he said. “If we can’t get them into treatment, it’s like rolling through a spinning turnstile. That’s the problem.”

“Our efforts so far have been pretty dismal,” he said. “About an 8 percent success rate on the programs that we have been providing them.”

Chief Probation Officer Brent Cardall this time backed up the DA, noting how few offenders have actually graduated from treatment and the high rate of Prop. 47 cases that are in violation.

While last year DA Jeff Reisig got into it with Judge David Rosenberg in casting blame in this direction, this time he didn’t single out any particular entity, noting, “Not through a lack of efforts on anyone’s part, but just the nature of the offender if there’s not more stick, there’s no incentive to create drug programing.”

However, Mr. Cardall, when pressed, stated that “the judges could order longer sentences.” While Prop. 47 allows for offenders to receive up to a year in county jail for crimes that used to be felonies, that is not happening in Yolo County.

“They’re not looking at a year in jail,” Mr. Cardall said. “They’re looking at 30 to 60 days. … I have not seen lengthy sentences with that population.” He noted, “The judges could order longer sentences.”

The problem here according to Mr. Cardall is that “the clients would rather (face) 30 to 60 days in jail and be done with their sentence and be released. It’s difficult to have them under supervision and go through treatment if there’s not a stick.”

The other problem is funding. Mr. Reisig told the board, it is not coming “to us anyway. It’s not coming to the CCP [Community Corrections Partnership] for the type of treatment… I believe a lot of it is directed toward mental health type.”

But this discussion misses a key point. California voters passed this measure back in 2014 because the voters have grown weary of the tough-on-crime approaches that imposed harsh sentences and prison time even for relatively low-level offenses.

Zachary Norris, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, wrote last year, “Requiring that certain low-level offenses be charged as misdemeanors begins to tear apart that web by removing huge barriers that prevent former inmates from obtaining available jobs and housing. Under Proposition 47, individuals with felony convictions who were previously barred from public housing, or who were discriminated against in their job search, now have a genuine opportunity to rebuild their lives and rejoin their communities. That will make us all safer.”

But the expectation was that these sorts of crimes would result in treatment options, with the money freed up from savings on incarceration. That part hasn’t happened. And while opponents of Prop. 47 like Jeff Reisig lament the rise in crime, they fail to take responsibility for their part in it.

Sources tell the Vanguard that there was a treatment plan that would have been implemented in Yolo County, that all the other stakeholders had agreed to, but the district attorney himself blocked it.

Yolo County has some options that the DA has reportedly refused to utilize. One possibility is to divert Prop. 47 defendants into treatment at the Yolo County Day Reporting Center. The DRC was opened in February 2013 and it provides vocational training, life skills which are designed to teach offenders the skills they need to find a job.

One of the programs they have includes drug and alcohol treatments. That is an existing program that has received high marks.

The other thing that the DRC can do is job training, providing vocational and life skills to help them get a job.

From our standpoint, Mr. Reisig has a potential solution right in front of his nose, and refuses to use it. Earlier in his presentation he bragged about the success of the Neighborhood Court diversion program and how jurisdictions across the state and even the nation were looking to adopt it.

While the Neighborhood Court program has a lot of potential, advocates of restorative justice approaches argue that we should go further – much further. In November 2013, the Vanguard featured Fresno County Judge David Gottlieb as a speaker and he had implemented a restorative justice program in Fresno involving youth offenders.

Since 1982, Fresno County has had something called a VORP – Victim Offender Reconciliation Program – which has the ability to bring “victims and offenders together in safe mediation or family group conference settings to permit the offender to take responsibility for his or her actions, to make things as right as possible with the victim, and to be clear about future intentions.”

Right now the Yolo County program focuses mainly on victimless crimes, but Fresno has for 30 years been far ahead, bringing victims and offenders together.

Many have falsely argued that programs like restorative justice approaches are “soft” responses to crime. However, they are missing a crucial element. In a punishment-based system, the individual is incarcerated. They often maintain their innocence and rarely have to take responsibility for their crimes.

The district attorney, at the very least, has the opportunity to introduce a restorative justice program for what would now be petty theft charges when an individual steals less than $900 worth of property. Why not implement the Neighborhood Court as part of the process to deal with those individuals?

It is not that the expansion of the Neighborhood Court alone will resolve the problem, but the implementation of a real treatment plan along with an expansion of the Neighborhood Court will at least allow us to look at proactive solutions, rather than waving our hands and complaining about voter-implemented policies that the county cannot change.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Barack Palin

    No surprise here, when you let offenders out of jail early and soften crime penalties crime will go way up.   Look for new tough on crime initiatives to surface when voters get tired of the higher and higher crime rates.

      1. David Greenwald

        To me the problem here is that it’s way too early to analyze the effects of the program, one year in, when it has not been fully or properly implemented with a one-sided analysis by people with a vested interest to oppose the program.

    1. zaqzaq

      David just perpetuates the Prop 47 lie that crime would go down after all of the money saved was used for treatment.  They only saved $29,000,000 which is not going to do much.  Even an LA Times article indicated that drug programs were in danger of closing due to a lack of patients because there was no longer any incentive in the criminal justice system to participate now that most offenses were now misdemeanors.  You cannot treat people for drug addiction if they do not participate.

          1. David Greenwald

            A 70 percent recidivism rate. $50,000 a year in incarceration costs. Why not give the full program a chance to work before condemning it? The problem is that the people in charge of implementing the program, don’t support it and in many cases are working to undermine it. My article cites two things that DA Reisig could have done from the start, but has refused. He put the kibosh on a countywide program that had buy in from all the stakeholders.

  2. Tia Will


    when you let offenders out of jail early and soften crime penalties crime will go way up.”

    Two points.

    1. You fail to differentiate between minor offenders and dangerous and violent offenders.

    2. Perhaps if we were to put as much funding and support ( both financial and social)  into rehabilitative programs as we have done into incarceration and punishment based programs, this would not be the case.

    1. hpierce

      So… if someone robbed a house, every day for a year, but not in a ‘dangerous or violent’ manner, they would be a minor offender?  Can’t think of who it was who challenged “dichotomous” thinking… they were right… most of the time…

        1. South of Davis

          So… if someone robbed a “car” every day they might not be charged as a felony (few people get charged with a felony when they break a car window)…

          With prop 47 setting so many criminals back out the 60% increase misdemeanor filings is due to the criminals starting with small stuff as they “get back in the game” after being behind bars.  I predict an increase in felonies next year…

        2. The Pugilist

          That’s more of a possibility.  A lot of DA’s would probably find a way to charge that as a felony, certainly Yolo would.

          “With prop 47 setting so many criminals back out the 60% increase misdemeanor filings is due to the criminals starting with small stuff as they “get back in the game” after being behind bars.  I predict an increase in felonies next year…”

          Most of the misdo filings are probably drug charges.  My guess is you will see a few of them hit by felonies, locked up.  And the system start to stabilize.  The problem is as pointed out in the article, Prop 47 is not being implemented because the implementers are intentionally attempting to undermine it.

        3. Barack Palin

          The problem is as pointed out in the article, Prop 47 is not being implemented because the implementers are intentionally attempting to undermine it.

          Or releasing all these criminals back on the streets is having the predicted outcome of much more crime.

    2. Biddlin

      “2. Perhaps if we were to put as much funding and support ( both financial and social)  into rehabilitative programs as we have done into incarceration and punishment based programs, this would not be the case.”

      Not to mention creating jobs that provide a living income…

      It’s the pantheistic liberal humanist hedonist in me talking, I guess.

  3. The Pugilist

    “Is Proposition 47 to Blame for California’s 2015 Increase in Urban Crime?”
    Here is a  new research report authored by a researcher at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Here is the full textual of the introduction to the eight-page CJCJ report:


    In November 2014, nearly 60 percent of California’s electorate voted to pass Proposition 47. This proposition made substantial sentencing reforms by reducing certain nonviolent, non-serious offenses, such as minor drug possession and shoplifting, from felonies to misdemeanors (CJCJ, 2014). Because the changes made by the new law applied retroactively, incarcerated people serving felony sentences for offenses affected by Proposition 47 were eligible to apply for resentencing to shorten their sentences or to be released outright.  Those who already completed felony sentences for Proposition 47 offenses could also apply to change their criminal records to reflect the reforms.

    Critics of Proposition 47 contended it would increase crime by releasing those convicted of dangerous or violent felonies early (see “Arguments Against Proposition 47,” 2014). Opponents also suggested that reducing the severity of sentences for certain felonies would fail to deter people from committing crimes or completing court-ordered probation requirements.

    In the initial months following the passage of Proposition 47, California’s jail population dropped by about 9,000 between November 2014 and March 2015 (the most recent date for which county jail figures are available at this time) (BSCC, 2016).  State prisons reported over 4,500 releases attributed to Proposition 47 (CDCR, 2016), for a total incarcerated population decline of more than 6 percent — a substantial decrease. Similar to the initial year after Public Safety Realignment took effect, January-June 2015 saw general increases in both violent and property crime in California’s cities with populations of 100,000 or more (Table 1).  During this period, homicide and burglary showed slight declines, while other Part I violent and property offenses experienced increases.

    Is Proposition 47 to blame for the increases in reported urban crimes?  This report tests this question by comparing changes in crime rates, from January–June 2014 and January–June 2015, in California’s 68 largest cities to changes in: (a) county jail populations and (b) Proposition 47-related discharges and releases from prison to resentencing counties.

  4. Frankly

    Murders are going up in most large urban areas with a high level of black crime following the demands from Black Lives Matter and their left political cohort.

    There you have it… with a left political tilt in crime and punishment we get less punishment, and more crime… including more murders.

    But being fair to criminals is, of course, more important than helping to prevent true victims of crime.

      1. Frankly

        We need to take the cities with the highest black victim murder rate and compare the rate as of the beginning of 2015 when the Black Lives Matter movement was launched by and the cops were attacked and demanded that they stand down in these neighborhoods.




        St. Louis

        And the 2015 murder rate in all of these cities was greater than in 2014.  And data shows it is again growing in 2016.

        1. Don Shor

          Crime overall in the 30 largest cities in 2015 remained roughly the same as in 2014. In fact, the projection shows a decrease of 5.5 percent, meaning the crime rate will remain less than half of what it was in 1990.
           The 2015 murder rate is projected to be 14.6 percent higher than last year in the 30 largest cities, with 18 cities experiencing increases and 7 decreases. However, in absolute terms, murder rates are so low that a small numerical increase leads to a large percentage change. Even with the 2015 increase, murder rates are roughly the same as they were in 2012 — in fact, they are slightly lower. Since murder rates vary widely from year to year, one year’s increase is not evidence of a coming wave of violent crime.
           A handful of cities have seen sharp rises in murder rates. Just two cities, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., account for almost 50 percent of the national increase in murders. These serious increases seem to be localized, rather than part of a national pandemic, suggesting community conditions are a major factor. The preliminary report examined five cities with particularly high murder rates — Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and St. Louis — and found these cities also had significantly lower incomes, higher poverty rates, higher unemployment, and falling populations than the national average.
          The original report is available here.(

    1. Biddlin

      edited I don’t have any clue what you mean by ” with a left political tilt in crime and punishment we get less punishment, and more crime.”  edited

      1. Frankly

        The Black Lives Matter movement is supported by and funded by left political activist groups.  It is certainly supported by most of the liberals on this blog.  It is also supported by and exploited by the DNC and Democrat politic candidates like Hillary Clinton.

        In this left political supported narrative, cops are bad actors in general, and they are treating blacks in these high crime areas unfairly.  Their demand list is long, but it all boils down to demanding that the cops stand down in these neighborhoods.

        And the cops have.

        And the absurd position of the leftists’ supporting those demands is that they will not see a rise in crime after the cops stand down… especially violent crime.

        We ARE seeing a rise in violent crime in those neighborhoods.  And it will continue to increase.

        And the left will continue to deny it until they can no longer deny it, and then they will just blame the cops again for not doing a good enough job stopping the crime.


        1. David Greenwald

          I think BLM has had its run-ins with both the Clinton and Sanders campaign. While they are on the left, they are definitely an independent movement.

        2. Frankly

          The point is that this general policy push from the political left to: “soften up on crime”, “get the cops to stand down”, “free people from jail and prison”, etc., etc…   is leading to more crime.

          You want to argue this point and I find it absurd that you would take that stand.  At the very least you would not know what the result will be and hence could not argue it.   Or, as the most hardened supporter of these things you would at least admit that it is possible that crime will increase.

          And then the discussion could move to one debating the cost benefits for allowing so much crime or having lower tolerance for it.

          You see, this is where I think the left is screwing up.  That should be the debate.  How much crime should we accept and tolerate in our free society.  Because crime erodes freedom (the freedom to be safe and to have property be safe from theft).  But strong law enforcement to prevent crime also erodes freedoms (to be safe from unjust suspicion and unfair treatment, and from harm from over-zealous law enforcement.)

          But that debate cannot happen while you and others take this absolute and absurd stance that crime will not increase by letting out criminals nor by the cops standing down.

        3. zaqzaq

          David states,

          “I think BLM has had its run-ins with both the Clinton and Sanders campaign. While they are on the left, they are definitely an independent movement.”

          and then states

          “Don: The topic here is Prop 47, Jeff Reisig, Local Crime.  Not Black Lives Matter, Move On or George Soros.”

          Please do not ask the moderator to keep people on topic if you are not going to do so yourself or are you like Hillary who believes rules applicable to others do not apply to her.



  5. dsomeyareed

    Is the suggestion here then to implement and fund any such program of rehabilitation (or any now being considered or that has a ready source of funding available) with no study or understanding of the programs likely overall effectiveness and outcomes? Are those programs, being considered, of a “never been tried before” nature? If not, there must be statistics somewhere. Studies and scholarly papers on the subject seem to agree that we’ve:

    1. Reached or exceeded a point of diminishing returns for incarceration.

    2. Programs that work only do so if targeted to specific individuals for specific crimes and with specific characteristics.

    3. Some offenders cannot be rehabilitated and belong in incarceration.

    If any or all of these are true, shouldn’t we be looking at only those programs that have verifiable evidence that they work at a significant level of reduction in recidivism and how (exactly) they must be implemented and followed-thru to ensure equivalent success in our county? Is anybody looking at this, including the DA or is he opposing and others supporting with no grounds for their positions?

    I’m also puzzled by the use of the expression “victimless crime.” Is there truly such a thing? How is it being defined for Yolo County since there seems to be no overall, national or even state consensus?

  6. Don Shor

    Moderator: to all Vanguard participants.

    Stop arguing with each other. Stop calling each other names. Stop saying offensive things about each other and about groups of people. 

    I will continue to edit posts with increasing rigor until the tone changes. I will remove posts if necessary.

    Stick to the topic of the thread. Discuss issues. 

    Please read and follow the Vanguard Comment Policy. 

      1. Frankly

        Maybe because there is nothing to report other than your lack of emotional control to read things you disagree with or that are outside of your narrow views and understanding.

        Read the VG Comment Policy.

        I will take responsibility for using provocative and sometimes inflammatory terms to make points.  However, these things are in the “discouraged content” section of the VG rules.   In fact that entire section is pretty much directed at me.

        You however have taken to direct personal insults of me and others you strongly disagree with.  And that is the area where the moderator will remove content.  And frankly, he has let too many of your personal insults ride, IMO.

        You put yourself at such lofty intellectual status, and I think you are a bright guy, I would like to read more actual arguments in debate of the points.  I’m sure if you think about it you know the line you should not cross, so just don’t.

        Now back to the topic… what are your views here?  Do you support Prop-47?  Do you expect more crime or not?  If so, do you accept more crime or not?

      1. Biddlin

        It seems quite subjective, doesn’t it? I actually hit the delete during edit, not wanting to vex Don and confirmed the desire to delete and there it is, anyway.
        Woah, it’s like synchronicity or voodoo or some cool sh*t like that. Humans must be at work here.

  7. Tia Will


    If so, do you accept more crime or not?”

    Are you asking this as a serious question ?  I see this as much more complicated than the black and white nature of the question as you have asked it.

    Of course no one is going to say “I accept more crime”.  But that is not the relevant question. I am frankly surprised that someone as conversant with cost benefit ration as you seem to be does not take the cost of imprisonment into account. So let’s try looking at this a little differently.

    Should an unrepentant murder remain in prison ?  Absolutely. But for societal safety, not as punishment.

    Should a non violent drug addict remain in prison ?  In my opinion “no” as long as they are willing to enter into a treatment program or until such time as we stop criminalizing the illness that is addiction.

    Should a repeat offender who steals from stores or homes be incarcerated. In my opinion, the answer to that question is “it depends”. What is the reason for the repetitive theft ?  Are they using that to satisfy a drug addiction ?  Then it would depend as in the paragraph above.  Are they mentally ill and unable to cope by other mechanisms. Then they should receive treatment and support, not incarceration. Is the individual incorrigible and unwilling to accept treatment, or job retraining so as to be able to obtain and keep a job, or unwilling to accept mental health treatment. Well then incarceration might be a final option, but should definitely not be considered prior to trying all other alternatives.

    1. Frankly

      Are you asking this as a serious question ?

      Absolutely.  Thanks for playing.

      Should an unrepentant murder remain in prison ?

      You say yes.  I would take it a bit farther though… the unrepentant thing does not mean much to me.  If you are guilty of willful murder you should go to prison for a long time.  Saying “I’m sorry” with feelings doesn’t fix the harm caused to the family and friends of the one killed.

      Should a non violent drug addict remain in prison ?

      You say no.  I largely if not completely agree with this.

      Should a repeat offender who steals from stores or homes be incarcerated.

      I generally agree with the first two although I have a sense that there are some being released that are prone to violence except that their current sentence is not for violence and they are released based on that.  But in general we agree with 1 and 2, and so at least for you and me this third one is where we will likely have some disagreement.  I think repeat offenders should be locked up… no matter what their excuse for stealing.  And if they are proven to be mentally unfit to stand trial, then they still need to be locked away in a mental health facility.   In fact, I see a lot of social justice crusader angst over this last category (“he only stole some cheese”, for example)… but it is really related to the fact that we lack mental health facilities and instead we put these mentally unfit repeat offenders in prison.

      We need more mental health facilities, and I agree we need more drug treatment services.  Why don’t we advocate for these instead of advocating to release repeat offenders?

      I am not in favor of putting these repeat offenders back on the streets to keep stealing.

      One last point on #2 above.  Although I agree that drug users should NOT be in prison, I have a lot of friends that think it is a death sentence for many to be let out… because they will OD.   How do you feel about that?   Is it worth a few more dead drug users to give freedom to all who get arrested for using?  Seems a good question for a MD.

  8. Tia Will


    How do you feel about that?   Is it worth a few more dead drug users to give freedom to all who get arrested for using?  Seems a good question for a MD.”

    What I say to that is what we should have are monitored facilities for drug use for those who have not successfully become drug free. This would take care of the possibility of unintentional death by overdose rather than incarceration as the only alternative.

  9. WesC

    Research has shown that approx. 75% of addicts who manage to stop using do so without any formal rehabilitation.   The healthcare industry would like us to believe that addiction is a medical disease, and such can only be treated and cured by treatment administered in a healthcare setting by healthcare professionals.  The reason is simply that there are tens if not hundreds of billions to be made by medicalizing addiction.  To say that we will only be able to stop addiction by building and funding a massive medical rehabilitation infrastructure is simply not true.

    To those who feel that we should keep them locked up consider that it now costs $80,000/yr to keep someone locked up in prison.  By federal court order California has had to reduce its prison population from a peak of near 180,000 to a present of near 125,000.  Each prison typically houses no more than 4,000 inmates.  It typically costs $500,000 to build a prison that will hold approx. 4,000 inmates. The cost to build 10 prison (40,000 inmates) would be at least 5 billion dollars. The annual cost of keeping them in prison would be 3.2 billion.  All those in favor of a massive tax increase to fund another prison building boom please raise their right hand.

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