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California Proposition 20: Revising Prison Reforms

Flickr user brustin
Creative Commons, used under CC BY-NC 2.0

This is a 2-minute summary of what’s on the ballot. Click here to listen to them all.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the extreme overcrowding in California state prisons was unconstitutional. In response, three criminal justice reforms were enacted. 

First, the Realignment Act made counties responsible for low-level offenders instead of state prisons. 

Then, in 2014, Californians approved Proposition 47, which downgraded most nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

Finally, in 2016, Proposition 57 made some nonviolent inmates eligible for parole if they served the sentence for their primary crime and could prove that their release wouldn’t put the community at risk. It passed with 64% of the vote.

The idea behind this year's Proposition 20 is to revise these reforms. It would recategorize certain non-violent crimes as felonies, restrict certain parole considerations, and require DNA collection for some misdemeanors. The "Yes on 20" campaign, which has received millions from law enforcement and PACs and associations, contends that the past reforms were “misguided” and put Californians in danger. 

Opponents say overcrowding is still a problem in state prisons and they have concerns about how Proposition 20 would affect communities of color. Then, there's the price tag: a report by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice says the prop would create hundreds of millions of dollars in new costs each year.

So if you want to roll back key elements of recent criminal justice reforms, vote yes. If you think that those reforms should remain in place, vote no.