Voice Your Support for Smarter Drug Laws that Reduce Prison Waste!
Federal judges recently ordered California to share a plan within days for how the state will reduce severe overcrowding in its prisons. After decades of expanding sentences, especially for drug crimes, the state’s prisons were filled beyond twice their design capacity, causing conditions the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in 2011.
One in five people in California’s prisons are there for drug-related offenses, including simple possession. California law makes many such offenses a felony, which can carry a three-year prison sentence. But not every case is the same – sometimes a person needs rehab, not prison, to avoid repeat offenses, and many others could be held accountable more effectively and inexpensively through supervised probation.
Right now, California law doesn’t provide judges or district attorneys with the flexibility to charge people based on their needs or risk. They should have the opportunity to charge certain people and offenses as misdemeanors, not felonies.
According to state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office in 2012, counties could save as much as $159 million annually if drug possession were charged as a misdemeanor (instead of a felony).
A 2012 survey of California voters found that seven in 10 support reducing drug possession from a felony to misdemeanor. It’s time we give judges and district attorneys to the flexibility to do just that.