By Renea Wickman
In November 2014 citizens of California overwhelmingly voted to pass Proposition 47 also called the Neighborhood and Schools Act. Proposition 47 is a law that provides that certain low level non violent felonies can now be reduced to misdemeanors. Thousands of people volunteered to walk and call to ensure thousands more citizens to ensure that Proposition 47 was passed – and it was. Since that time hundreds of inmates, in particular, African Americans have been released from prison, jail, parole and probation because of Prop 47 related. Here in the IE alone, the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches, Time for Change, Starting Over Inc. and many other organizations have held Proposition 47 clinics helping African Americans and other people reduce their felonies to misdemeanors.
The millions of dollars in savings would breakdown to 25% going to the Department of Education , 10% going to Victim Compensation and 65% going to the Board of State and Community Corrections to be distributed to programs directly related to those released and affected by proposition 47. In February 2015, the California State Legislative Analyst’s Office, LAO, estimated the states savings from 100 million to 200 million for 2016 – 2017. However, at the same time it was reported that 1,900 inmates would be released as a result of Proposition 47 in 2015 – 2016 with a savings of roughly 73 million dollars.
Community members demanded that funds for newly released inmates be put back into the community for support with mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, life skills training, job training and education and not given to law enforcement. The community was on a roll and it was expected that the funds would in fact go to Community Based Organization and not back in the pockets of law enforcement. However, the Governor just released the 2016 – 2017 proposed budget where he is now saying that the savings only amounts to 29 million dollars.
It is my belief that the pressure is on the Governor and other elected officials to redirect that money back to jails paying correction officers, parole and probation, law enforcement as a whole. Here’s why, with proposition 47 working so well, eventually the decrease in inmates, and people on parole and probation means the state will have to eliminate those jobs. Well, law enforcement is not having that. Law enforcement have the most powerful unions in the country, who give billions of dollars to our elected officials campaigns. They own them.
The African American community has been exploited by the prison industrial complex for centuries and white people have made fortunes off our incarceration. We have always been the most populated in the prisons and jails across the country. Here in California we are only 6.6% of the population but make up as much as 40% of the incarcerated population. This institution has destroyed our families and our communities apart – is time for us to really back and hard comprehensive criminal justice reform. We will be writing letters to the Governor and state legislators requesting more information on how Proposition 47 savings went from up to 200 million dollars to now only 29 million dollars.
If you would like more information on how you can help, please contact Renea Wickman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 909 567 0222.