November 17, 2017

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Why Support Prop. 47?

In 2012, close to 133,000 people were incarcerated in California—and of those people, roughly 25 percent suffer from mental illness. There are three times more people with mental illness in jail than there are in hospitals.

In fact, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto—president of the California Catholic Conference—points out that “failing schools and a woefully inadequate community mental health system are becoming merely preludes to prison.”

“Incarceration does a miserable job of educating people and treating mental illness,” he adds, “but that has become the norm for California.”

For these reasons, the California Catholic Conference of Bishops is supporting Proposition 47, which will be on the November ballot.

The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act will provide educational support and treat mental illness, in addition to eliminating sentencing disparities for some nonviolent crimes.

It will change six of the lowest level nonviolent crimes (simple drug possession, shoplifting under $950, writing or forging a check under $950, and petty theft or receipt of stolen property under $950) from a felony to a misdemeanors, and require resentencing for people serving felony sentences for these offenses (unless they pose a safety risk).

The net savings to the criminal justice system could reach $150-$250 million, money that would be spent on school truancy and dropout prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and victim services.

“A debate on criminal justice practices is long-overdue in California and it requires thoughtful attention,” says Bishop Soto.

“… [W]e are dealing with real human lives, with complicated social dynamics and with the need to balance accountability, justice and fairness in our justice system. Prisons do not make good schools or good mental health programs. Proposition 47 can help us do better than that.”

PHOTO Courtesy of the California Catholic Conference.

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