Some convicted Californians may face more time in jail due to Prop. 47

Proposition 47, which lowered sentences for some offenses, has reduced prison crowding and the early release of people convicted of more serious offenses.

Last year, the passage of Proposition 47 reduced prison sentences for people convicted of certain nonviolent, low-level offenses in California. This change has benefitted many people in Stockton who are serving time for these offenses or facing pending charges. However, reports show that this measure also has caused unintended side effects. People convicted of crimes that are not addressed under the measure may now be more likely to serve longer prison sentences.

Prison populations reduced

According to The Los Angeles Times, Proposition 47 classified several nonviolent offenses as misdemeanors. These included shoplifting, theft crimes, possession of stolen goods, forgery and check or credit fraud, provided that the property in question was worth less than $950. For nonviolent convicted offenders, the measure reduced the maximum prison sentence for these offenses to one year.

This change has already resulted in significant decreases in inmate populations in several California counties. By the start of 2015, the inmate population in Orange County had fallen 22 percent. San Diego County recorded a decrease of 16 percent, while Los Angeles County reported a 23 percent drop in bookings. These declines in inmate populations have also led to a reduction in early releases of other offenders.

Longer sentences served

For years, many people serving time in California have qualified for early release as a result of prison overcrowding. For example, in the Los Angeles area, investigations have found that the average inmate served just 10 percent of his or her sentence. According to The Los Angeles Times, in 2014, about 13,500 inmates were released early each month from prisons across California.

Now, as crowding has eased, more convicted offenders are serving more of their sentences. As an example, in Los Angeles County, people convicted of crimes such as theft, driving under the influence and forgery generally used to serve 10 to 20 percent of their sentences. Now, they serve 90 percent of those sentences. Similarly, people convicted of more severe offenses, such as assault with a deadly weapon, used to serve 40 percent of their time. Now, they are typically serving full sentences.

Outlook in Stockton

Data regarding changes in average time served in Stockton and other parts of San Joaquin County hasn't been reported. However, last year, The Los Angeles Times noted that the county was among those being forced to turn away parole violators and low-level offenders due to prison overpopulation. As crowding becomes less of an issue, more convicted offenders in the area may be left serving full-term sentences.

People who have been charged with violent crimes or other serious offenses in California should appreciate this new risk of longer incarceration. These individuals should consider protecting their rights by consulting with a criminal defense attorney about challenging or otherwise handling the charges.

Keywords: jail, prison, misdemeanor, release