No on Prop 20: A Step Backward on Criminal Justice Progress

This summer, Black-led organizations and communities of color throughout California demanded that the bloated budgets allocated to local law enforcement be diverted to the social services and infrastructure that our communities need to survive and thrive. Calls to #DefundPolice and reinvest our tax dollars directly into our communities reverberated through social media and city council chambers.Communities large and small urged local electeds to re-invest in affordable housing, community-based mental health support, youth programming, and more. 

Our movements are gaining momentum and as a result, local and statewide law enforcement unions are attacking transformative public safety developments across California. Prop 20 is just one example of their recalcitrant efforts. 

If passed, Prop 20 will undermine important criminal justice reforms that California voters overwhelmingly approved six years ago. In 2014 California voters passed Prop 47, a law that changed some low-level offenses from potential felonies to misdemeanors and reallocated savings from incarceration to local drug treatment, mental healthcare, and supportive housing. In 2015, California voters passed Prop 57 which enabled people convicted of nonviolent felonies to be considered for release after serving their term for their primary offense. Prop 47 and Prop 57 resulted in people returning home from incarceration, increased job access for systems impacted people, and funding for community-based programs to prevent recidivism. 

If passed, Prop 20 will further criminalize, incarcerate, and enact violence on our communities, particularly Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. Prop 20 will allow certain non-violent, theft-related offenses that are currently considered misdemeanors to be charged as felonies. Prop 20 will also make it more difficult for people to qualify for early parole and release from prison – and require law enforcement to collect DNA from people who are convicted of certain misdemeanors. 

We must not allow law enforcement unions and tough-on-crime syndicates to overturn important progress to direct funding away from the wasteful prison system. Voters in California have already determined that we cannot police or criminalize our way out of societal problems. 

At a time when the County of Orange is trying to advance the James A. Musick Facility in Irvine as a “mental health jail” to expand incarceration, it’s no surprise that the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs is one of the several law enforcement unions supporting Prop 20. By creating new crimes and keeping people inside cages, Prop 20 enables the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Don Barnes to overcrowd existing jails and fill new ones. We cannot let this happen. 

Prop 20 resurfaces tired ideas in a moment when Californians are calling for a more holistic approach to public safety. Vote NO on Prop 20. 

Jennifer Rojas

Jennifer Rojas

is an advocate and facilitator for social justice from Huntington Beach. She has worked on policy and labor organizing campaigns in San Diego, the Bay Area, and her home county for almost 10 years. More recently, she has worked on statewide legislative campaigns for police transparency, police accountability, and alternatives to police. Jennifer is a Member of Chispa.

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