How California Is Reducing Its Prison Population

California has long been a bellwether for the nation’s attitudes on criminal justice policy.

During the 1990s, the state enacted its infamous “three strikes” law, which mandated dramatically longer sentences for people with prior felony convictions; the law came to epitomize the harsh mandatory minimums that swept the country.

Last fall, California made a significant course correction. Voters overwhelmingly approved Prop 47, a ballot initiative reclassifying many low-level nonviolent and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Advocates and officials across the country are now studying Prop 47 and gauging whether similar measures might succeed in their states.

Lenore Anderson had a lot to do with Prop 47’s success. Anderson, an attorney and former top aide to Oakland’s mayor and San Francisco’s district attorney, is executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit organization that works for sensible reforms to promote public safety by spending less on incarceration and more on prevention and treatment.

Through her organization’s Vote Safe project, she helped to assemble a genuine left–right coalition in support of the initiative—a coalition that has come to see that mass incarceration is costly, inhumane, and fails to make the public materially safer. In the months since its passage, Prop 47 has already been credited with helping California reduce its prison population by nearly 3,000 inmates, helping to bring the state into compliance with a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding. As Anderson discusses in the video above, the projected savings from the reduction in incarceration will be used to support prevention efforts, provide substance abuse and mental health treatment, and bolster support services for crime victims.



Have you heard of a petition called second strike initiative, it's about juveniles that are first time offenders. I don't know how to attach it or I would. I am hoping we can work on this also. Or, maybe you can direct me as to who to contact.

Sounds like a great approach.

That is good development, and it would be helpful if the legislators would consider reversing prior drug convictions automatically, without unnecessary tons of paperwork so those with prior records of sometimes unjust convictions would finally be free of stigma and proud residents of once great state of California.

Many developing countries, Pakistan included, adopt policies taking a cue from the developed countries ignoring their transitory nature. Mostly they tend to favor harsher approach towards correctional issues. They do not follow when developed countries either modify or overturn these policies. Result is prison overpopulation, injustice and cruelty.
Another related issue is the fact that many developing countries had indigenous criminal justice systems before western influence. Those systems, though not perfect, were rooted in their culture. Presently most Western aid is directed towards copying the imported and alien models of criminal justice. There is a need for more inclusive approach to the indigenous input. Thanks. Mohammad Javed

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