When California voters approved Proposition 47 in November 2014, it marked a new era of crime and punishment in the state.
It also led to a system that, so far, has utterly failed, City Attorney Mike Feuer told a Downtown Los Angeles audience yesterday.
In the effort to reduce the state prison population, Prop. 47 downgraded a half dozen non-violent felonies, such as certain kinds of drug possession and petty theft, to misdemeanors, meaning offenders receive shorter sentences.
About 18 months after Prop 47’s passage, however, the policy has missed its target, Feuer said.
“Almost no one has gotten anything close to meaningful drug rehabilitation, and we’ve prosecuted thousands of these cases,” Feuer said Monday at a luncheon at the Downtown Palm hosted by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum. “The system is broken at every level.”
Feuer said arrests for the felonies-turned-misdemeanors have plummeted “by more than 50%.” Those who are arrested show up for court less frequently, and people who are convicted typically receive a sentence that is shorter than the minimum length for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to hold someone in a local jail, he added.
“So how do you incentivize someone to go through rehab when the consequence of a conviction is no jail time?” he asked. “Which then feeds into the lack of interest of police and sheriffs in arresting in the first place.”
Despite the shortfalls, Feuer said Prop. 47 has yielded some positives. He pointed to unprecedented collaboration and discussion with judges, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Sheriff Jim McDonnell, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, county supervisors and others.
“These meetings would have never happened before,” Feuer noted.