At last week’s LA County Board of Supervisors meeting, Auditor-Controller John Naimo informed the Supes—-via an 18-page report—that the county had no way to come up with an accurate estimate of savings (or increased costs) from Proposition 47.
Prop. 47 reclassified six low-level drug and property-related felonies as misdemeanors, and was supposed to save the state more than $100 million each year. Money saved by Prop. 47 is earmarked for community mental health and rehabilitation services, truancy and dropout prevention efforts, and victims services.
None of the eight county departments included in Naimo’s review had methods in place for gathering and tracking the financial impact of Prop. 47 in Los Angeles County.
“It’s worrisome that many county departments aren’t keeping track of the information they need to understand how Prop 47 is changing their operations,” said John Kim, Executive Director of Advancement Project.
The problem isn’t unique to Los Angeles. “We contacted the counties of Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego to identify best practices, and noted that all four counties did not track and quantify Prop 47 cost savings and/or increases at the time of our revÍew,” Naimo wrote in the report.
The Auditor-Controller did come up with a rough estimate (for fiscal year 2015-2016) of $9.2 million in net savings from the voter-approved 2014 law.
On Tuesday, the board approved two important motions from Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas.
The first motion will split the savings, sending 50% to community-based mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and victims services, and 50% will go to Prop. 47 task forces, which among other duties, will ensure the Public Defender’s Office and the Alternate Public Defender’s Office have enough resources to get all Prop. 47 petitions processed before the November 2017 deadline.
“Investing 50% of Prop. 47 savings in community prevention is a big step forward and moves savings upstream, into prevention. But we are only halfway there,” said the LA Coalition for Safety and Justice in a statement released Tuesday. “One hundred percent of the savings should be invested into community based programs that reduce recidivism, increase neighborhood safety, and get residents the appropriate care they need, such as substance abuse treatment and youth development.”
Drug Policy Alliance’s Eunisses Hernandez stressed the importance of the money allocated for local legal resources to get all Prop. 47-eligible petitions processed. “I think this motion is really great,” said Hernandez. “I just want to ensure that we include some of that funding to go into the community-based legal service providers…that are working on implementing Prop. 47, and helping people remove the barriers to employment, housing, and other things that can lead to recidivism.”
At the state level, CA Governor Jerry Brown’s budget has calculated that savings to be $29.3 million. And the ACLU and other advocates have criticized Gov. Brown for putting Prop. 47 money back into the prison system by subtracting certain supervision and court costs from the Prop. 47 savings total. A report from California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found that Governor Jerry Brown’s budget under-counted the dollar amount Proposition 47 saved the state by about $100 million.
The second motion will have the eight county departments—which include the LASD, Probation, the Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender, the DA, Dept. of Health Services, and Dept. of Mental Health—track and analyze work and productivity data in a manner that will clarify Prop. 47 savings and better inform the budget.
“Already tens of thousands of people in Los Angeles County have applied for a change in their criminal record under Prop. 47, allowing them to escape the burden of a felony that for too long has precluded them from accessing jobs, housing, and other things that are key to maintaining stability,” said Danny Montes of Californians for Safety and Justice. “Our county’s justice system needs to adapt to changes in the law. Prop. 47 requires new approaches, and everyone in our county’s justice system needs to be committed to that.”
We at WLA will be keeping an eye on these issues.
This post was updated April 13, at 2:20p.m. to include quotes from the board’s meeting.