Prop. 20 to enact stronger penalties on certain crimes if passed

Photo of California Men's Colony, a California state prison
Downtowngal/Creative Commons
Proposition 20 is supported by politicians such as U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes and organizations including the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. The California Democratic Party, as well as organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, oppose the ballot initiative.

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This November, California residents will be voting on Proposition 20, a measure which, if passed, will allow certain misdemeanor crimes to be chargeable as felonies and create stricter policies on parole.

The ballot initiative would allow certain theft and fraud crimes currently only classified as misdemeanors to instead be “wobblers,” which are chargeable as either misdemeanors or felonies. In addition, the proposition would require people convicted of misdemeanors classified as wobblers and felonies before 2014 to submit DNA to state and federal databases.

As for parole, Prop. 20 would classify 51 crimes as “violent” in order to bar parole for convicted individuals. The initiative also would require parole review boards to take into account aspects including the felon’s age, criminal history, future plans, marketable skills, mental condition and attitude toward the crime.

According to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla in his fiscal impact statement, the measure would likely increase annual correctional costs by tens of millions of dollars and annual court-related costs by a few million dollars. Padilla added that additional law enforcement costs are not expected to go beyond a “couple million dollars.”

The website of Reform California, a political action committee in favor of Prop. 20, argues that California politicians “coddle” criminals due to the previous passages of Prop. 47, which downgraded certain felonies to misdemeanors, and Prop. 57, which increased the chances for nonviolent criminals to be granted early release.

Prop. 20 is supported by politicians including U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes and organizations including the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs.

According to the Reform California website, the passage of the proposition would rectify issues with both Prop. 47 and Prop. 57 by allowing courts to charge cases involving fraud and theft as misdemeanors and felonies, as opposed to only as misdemeanors. The proposition would also create two new crime categories, serial crime and organized retail crime, which could be charged as misdemeanors or felonies.

Those who oppose the initiative argue that it would lead to excessive prison spending, overcrowding and overly strict penalties for crimes.

The California Democratic Party took an official stance against the initiative and is listed as part of an opposition coalition, No on Prop. 20.

Davina Srioudom, the political director of Cal Berkeley Democrats, said in an email that the California Democratic Party opposes Prop. 20 because it would overturn previous justice reform measures that addressed flaws in the prison system.

“These changes in crime classification would lead to funds being spent on building prison capacity, overcrowding in prisons, and over-sentencing of non-violent crimes, when these funds could instead be invested into rehabilitation and support systems,” Srioudom added in the email.

Former California Gov. Jerry Brown is a major donor in the opposition effort. The American Civil Liberties Union of California is also part of the No on Prop. 20 coalition.

Contact Blake Evans and Natalie Lu at [email protected].