Proposition 47, passed by voters in November 2014, reclassified a number of drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Backers of Proposition 47 argued that spending on prisons should be reserved for only the most violent and serious offenders, with more resources directed toward prevention and support programs.
Sentences were immediately reduced after the measure passed, and both the state prison and county jail populations declined. Between October 2014 and December 2016, the overall prison population dropped by 6,664 inmates (4.9%) and the jail population by 8,545 (10.4%). Although all of that decline cannot be attributed to the initiative, both populations have decreased as intended.
Proposition 47 requires any net state savings from the measure—coming from a decrease in the prison population—to go toward grants and programs for K‒12 schools (25% of savings), victim services (10%), and mental health and substance use disorder treatment (65%). It should be noted that the measure did not require counties to report or redirect any local savings that may come from the change in sentencing.
The measure required that the first transfer of savings occur by August 2016. This first transfer totaled more than $67 million and went to the three agencies tasked with distributing the grants (Table 1). The first grants were awarded this month. It’s estimated that nearly $46 million in savings will be transferred for fiscal year 2017–18. By 2019–20, long-term savings will be $75 million annually.
Administration of grants for those with mental health and substance use disorders is the responsibility of the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC). This independent state agency already oversees statewide regulations, inspections, and new construction funding for local jails and juvenile facilities. I focus on the BSCC grant program below because it is the largest category of Proposition 47 savings and is the only grant program that will help current offenders in the criminal justice system. However, it’s important to note that the California Department of Education has recently awarded its first year of grant funding.
All projects funded through the BSCC are required to include some combination of mental health services, substance use disorder treatment, and efforts to work with individuals before arrest or booking into jail. Priority is given to projects that also provide housing-related support and/or other community-based supportive services. At least half of the funds have to go to non-governmental community based organizations.
The BSCC is using the Proposition 47 funds to provide three-year grants, with an estimated $104 million available in funding from June 2017 to August 2020. Fifty-eight public agencies—including superior courts; school districts; district and city attorneys; health and human services; and police, probation, sheriff, and county education offices—submitted proposals. In the end, the BSCC is funding 23 projects across 17 counties, totaling $103.7 million in funding.
Projects are considered small or large depending on their funding level. Fifteen large scale projects (more than $1 million) received funding, including $6 million for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office to implement a health-focused drug intervention and pre-booking diversion program in five South Los Angeles locations. Eight small scale projects ($1 million) received funding, including $960,667 for Merced County Probation Department to provide mental health and substance treatment for men up to 24 years old in the Los Banos region.
The goals of these programs are twofold: showing successful outcomes for participants, and giving criminal justice practitioners and policymakers more information on effective tools for evidence-based programming. PPIC will continue to describe and follow these projects in the months and years to come.