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November 3, 2014
As a state, our future success depends on our ability to give the next generation, and that means all of our children, the chance to achieve a safe, healthy, and productive adulthood. Sadly, many of our children never get that opportunity as sentencing policies in California push minor, non-violent offenders, children and adults alike, into extremely harsh penalties. Far from keeping us safer, these unfair policies only perpetuate the crisis of poverty and violence by splitting apart families and pushing young people out of school and into an overcrowded and harmful juvenile justice system that is incredibly hard to rebound from.
I’ve devoted much of my work to studying the cradle to prison pipeline, one of the greatest public crises facing families and communities in California today, and bringing together like-minded civic and community leaders to strategize how we can solve this problem that affects thousands every day. On this year’s ballot, all Californians will have the opportunity to help break this trend. We can vote YES on Proposition 47, a state-wide ballot initiative to reform sentencing for minor, non-violent offenses.
Prop. 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, will invest more resources into education, rehabilitation, and treatment – and will invest less money into prisons. Specifically, Proposition 47 reclassifies six low-level drug possession and petty theft-related offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, potentially saving the state and county governments up to $1 billion over the next five years. It redirects money back to what’s important: providing funds to K–12 schools for positive and supportive programs that address absenteeism and recidivism.
Prop. 47 will strengthen the future of our state by supporting the backbone of our communities: our families. Children of incarcerated parents are more likely to suffer from psychological trauma, perform poorly in the classroom, and be placed in the foster system. But Prop. 47 would help fix that by reuniting thousands of children and parents and give children a more secure, and stable home life that is essential to academic, professional, and personal success.
Our children belong in schools and at home with their families, not in a juvenile justice system that stunts growth, and sets them on a path that is not only hard to get off, but makes it nearly impossible for them to reach their full potential. As you cast your ballot Tuesday, consider the future of our families, our communities, and our state and vote yes on Prop. 47.
Alex M. Johnson
Children's Defense Fund - California