Roughly one year ago we wrote about how Proposition 47 is affecting crime rates in California. The legislation is meant to reduce our states prison population through reclassifying some drug and property felonies to misdemeanors. Some time has passed since 2014 when Prop 47 came into being, which means experts are in a better position to say if the measure is having the desired effect.
Last April, when we set our sights on Proposition 47, there were indications that arrest rates had fallen significantly and certain crimes were on the rise across the Golden State. Critics of the bill argue that reclassifying many nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors makes it more difficult for authorities to do their job. Others have asserted that downgrading crimes emboldens criminals leading to a rise in certain crimes.
The available data from last year showing a decrease in arrests rates may have had more to do with staff shortages and deployment strategy changes than with Prop 47. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck also pointed out that increasing public safety without necessarily having to make arrests is preferable. As with any controversial legislation there will always be differences of opinion, so we have an obligation to defer to the research before we laud or deride policy. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the science.
Proposition 47: Good or Bad?
Law enforcement officials contend that Prop 47 has made their job more difficult and has led to a drop in arrests and increase in certain crimes. However, criminologist Charis Kubrin and her student Bradley Bartos at the University of California Irvine say otherwise, according to The Crime Report. Their research indicates that the legislation did not cause the crime trends being witnessed across the state.
“Proposition 47 has been blamed for rising crime in California since it took effect in 2014, yet no research has evaluated this claim,” write the researchers. “Using a novel method of policy analysis to compare crime rates in California pre- and post-Proposition 47, our findings suggest that the blame is misplaced.”
Instead, the findings indicate that Prop 47 gave counties the ability to reduce imprisonment time for lesser offenses and more time for serious crimes, according to the article. The authors write, “crime rates going up (or down for that matter) tell us nothing about the source of those trends, and studies such as this one are necessary to determine any link between criminal justice reform and crime rates.”
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