Safety and Justice Leader: Despite ‘Vested Interest,’ Naysayers Claims False – Prop 47, Other Criminal Justice Reforms Working, Saving Tax Dollars, Lives

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By The Vanguard Staff

SAN JOSE, CA – There’s been an “ongoing effort by those with a vested interest in protecting the old, failed approaches of our criminal justice system to spread disinformation about the impact reforms to that broken system have had,” but it’s false, said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, which co-authored Proposition 47 in 2014.

In an opinion piece in the San Jose Mercury News this week, Hollins maintained criminal justice reforms like Proposition 47, OK’d by voters nine years ago, have saved incarcerated people lives because “[w]e were failing by every conceivable measure to provide the safety Californians deserve.”

Hollins added the reforms have “pulled California out of a crisis that included multiple people dying weekly from medical neglect in its overstuffed state prisons, a statewide re-arrest rate of over 75 percent and the entire state prison system nearly being taken over by the federal government.”

The reformer said the effort to knock justice reform has “entered hyperdrive as property crime rates have ticked up from historic lows since the start of the global pandemic. Powerful law enforcement interests hope that will cause collective amnesia, that we all forget the disastrous ruin wrought by the failed ‘tough on crime’ policies of the 1980s and 1990s.”

Hollins said Prop. 47 reforms have led to state monies being invested into communities and preventing crime, instead of spending tens of billions of dollars for public safety on enforcement and incarceration. 

“Voters were clear when they approved Proposition 47 that the failure of the status quo was no longer acceptable, and that we needed to pursue safety strategies grounded in data, research and science. They should be proud of what they’ve achieved so far,” wrote Hollins in the Op-Ed in the Mercury News.

Hollins added, “By no longer sending people accused of petty theft or possession of drugs for personal use to state prison for several years at enormous taxpayer expense, and instead making those crimes punishable by up to a year in local jail, California has accomplished two critical things.

“First, the state prison population has been safely reduced to a level below a court-ordered population cap that, if exceeded, could trigger a federal takeover. Second, the state has saved more than $750 million as a result of that reduction in state prison incarceration. That money has been reallocated back to local communities across the state to fund programs data shows we are having remarkable success reducing recidivism, increasing housing and employment stability, and making our communities safer.”

Hollins cited, “Data released by the California Board of State and Community Corrections shows that, statewide, Proposition 47-funded programs saw employment increase threefold since 2017 among participants, while participants’ rates of homelessness fell by nearly half.

“The Proposition 47-funded program in San Francisco has shown particularly big declines in homelessness (78 percent of participants were homeless before programming and just 15 percent after), while Alameda County’s Proposition 47-funded program has also made big strides reducing homelessness (53 percent before programming to just 10 percent after).”

Crime rates declined steadily, including property crime for five years after Prop. 47 began—including some of lowest rates in history in 2019 and 2020, insists Hollins.

“Since the pandemic, property crime has ticked up from those historic lows, presenting new challenges we must meet. It’s critical the public be assured that when crime does occur, law enforcement will solve it and use existing law to hold people accountable. Government and law enforcement leaders across the state must double down on their commitment to addressing organized retail theft syndicates.

“But it’s also imperative we not forget reforms like Proposition 47 continue to work and show us that true safety for all our communities is possible when we prioritize crime and harm prevention,” Hollins wrote in the Mercury News opinion section.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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