Bill Watch

Prop 20’s Justice Reform Changes Would Send Disproportionate Numbers of Californians of Color into Lockup, Says Report

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

Proposition 20’s rollback of portions of recent criminal justice reform laws would have a disproportionately negative impact on Californians of color, according to a new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

CJCJ’s Maureen Washburn and Mike Males based their fact sheet on race and ethnicity data for felony theft arrests and imprisonment for property crimes in California.

For those unfamiliar, the law enforcement union-backed Prop. 20 would, among other actions, rewind parts of Propositions 47 and 57, which have helped to reduce the state’s decades-long over-reliance on incarceration.

These laws have helped to save the state millions of dollars that would have otherwise been spent on incarceration, while also allowing California to stay below a federal court-mandated prison population cap of 137.5 percent capacity. At the same time, overall crime rates in California continue to remain at record lows.

In 2014, Proposition 47 reduced six low-level property and drug “wobblers” – crimes chargeable as either misdemeanors or felonies – to straight-up misdemeanors.

These crimes were check forgery worth $950 or less, theft of property worth $950 or less, writing bad checks worth $950 or less, receiving stolen property worth $950 or less, shoplifting property worth $950 or less, and drug possession.

Under Prop. 47, people with certain priors including serious or violent felonies or sex offenses can still be charged with felonies when they commit the drug and property crimes included in Prop. 47.

But Prop. 20 proponents, have accused Prop. 47 of increasing certain property crime rates, want heavier consequences reinstated for theft-related crimes.

Specifically, Prop. 20 would return unlawful credit card use, firearm theft, and vehicle theft to the wobbler category, allowing them to be charged as felonies, which means more people spending more time behind bars.

It would also require people convicted of wobblers and Prop. 47’s former wobblers to submit DNA samples for inclusion in law enforcement databases.

Prop. 20 would require anyone convicted of wobbler crimes, as well as Prop. 47 misdemeanors, to submit to having DNA samples taken and included in law enforcement databases.

The ballot initiative would also add two new crimes to the state code: serial crime and organized retail crime. These two crimes would be categorized as wobblers, as well.

Prop. 20 backers say that the measure would not put “any additional people in prison.”

Yet, the CJCJ report estimates that 3,000 to 6,000 new jail and prison terms would result from Prop. 20 and that an estimated 66 percent of those incarcerated would be Black, Latino, and other residents of color.

“These lengthy periods of incarceration would separate parents from their children, leave families without an income earner, and send substantial ripple effects through communities of color,” Washburn and Males write.

Black people, approximately 6 percent of the state’s population, could make up approximately 20 percent of new arrests and 25 percent of imprisonments that would occur if voters approve Prop. 20.

CJCJ estimates that Black Californians could be impacted by Prop. 20 at three to five times the rate of their white counterparts: 50.5 arrests and 9.1 imprisonments per 100,000 Black people to 16.5 arrests and 1.8 imprisonments per 100,000 white people.

The measure would also have serious financial impacts on counties and states already dealing with budget cuts brought on by the pandemic.

An earlier June report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice estimated that measure could cost the state as much as $450 million per year in court costs and incarceration. The organization calculated that somewhere between 4,900 and 9,900 of those theft offenses could be charged as felonies, instead of misdemeanors. “This would result in an increase in court costs associated with new felony convictions ($15 million to $31 million), an increase in the cost of serving a larger population on probation with longer probation terms ($70 million to $232 million), and an increase in local jail and state prison costs resulting from additional incarceration ($69 million to $194 million),” the report authors stated. “Simply put, it is more expensive to convict and punish felonies than misdemeanors.”

Money saved by Prop. 47 goes toward mental health services and drug rehab programs for criminal justice system-involved people, efforts to reduce truancy and help at-risk students, and for victims’ services. Prop. 47 saved the state an estimated $68 million in its first year, and approximately $350 million over five years.

The measure, which was applied retroactively, changed the circumstances of tens of thousands of Californians by freeing them from the collateral consequences of felony records.

Another potential casualty of Prop. 20, 2016’s Proposition 57, increased access to early release credits, as well as boosted parole eligibility for people convicted of certain crimes who have completed the base sentence for their primary offense.

Proposition 20 would add 51 crimes and sentence enhancements to the state’s legal definition of violent crime, which currently does not include felony domestic violence, child sex trafficking, rape of an unconscious person, or felony assault with a deadly weapon.

“Recent changes to parole laws allowed the early release of dangerous criminals by the law’s failure to define certain crimes as ‘violent,’ the measure’s introduction states. “These changes allowed individuals convicted of sex trafficking of children, rape of an unconscious person, felony assault with a deadly weapon, battery on a police officer or firefighter, and felony domestic violence to be considered ‘non-violent offenders.’” Prop. 20 would also add crimes like extortion, robbery, and possessing, exploding, or igniting a destructive device (even if that destructive device was only meant to be used to damage property, and even if it was only possessed — not used).

Recategorizing these offenses and enhancements as violent would block people convicted of those specific crimes from accessing the early parole benefits of Prop. 57.

The act would also create a third-strike factor within probation law, requiring probation departments to petition a judge to send a person to jail if they violate the terms of their probation a third time.

“Proposition 20 would come at a high cost to the state and counties,” the CJCJ report says. “Yet Californians of color would pay the greatest price with rates of arrest, conviction, probation, jail, and prison that far exceed those of white Californians. By rolling back progressive criminal justice reforms, Proposition 20 would exacerbate the harmful racial and ethnic disparities in California’s justice system and leave lasting negative effects on communities of color.”


  • Miss Walker, I have question for you, since you keep talking about how Prop 20 will unfairly affect people of color.

    Does the crime pick the person or does the person pick the crime?

    You also talk about how this will be costly for the state! How about the cost to the victims? I wish you bleeding hearts would remember the REAL victims and quit trying to portray those who committ crimes, as victims.

    If you’re going to portray crime as having gone down, you should do some real research. What you will find is the REPORTING of crime has gone down, because the REAL victims no longer want to waste their time reporting, since they will be the only ones inconvenienced.

    Whittier Officer Boyer (if he was still with us) and our recently ambushed deputies, would probably disagree with your sympathetic views of the affects of Prop 57.

  • Disproportionate outcomes = racist system to these idiots… This type of analysis is so misleading to the public and policy makers…

    Those that use real statistics (inferential and bivariate measures of association) can actually make real arguments about association and causation. Disproportionate outcomes compared by population are such a poor measure of anything.

  • Ron, you nailed it.

    Liberals are being overtly racist by ASSUMING what crimes will be committed by people of certain ethnicities.

    As I always say, if you liberals would spend more time trying to help minorities instead of making excuses for them, they’d be in better shape.

  • Boys, Mr. Hernandez,

    The crime may not pick the perpetrator, but you can pick the person you arrest. You pick the car you search, the kid on the bike you stop. Your ilk, for example, arrest more people of color for offenses that white people commit at equal or higher numbers. You are more likely to arrest a brown or black kid, for the same offense, ALL THINGS EQUAL, than the white kid committing the same crime. Then, let us move up to the prosecutor, who is more likely to prosecute people of color, ALL THINGS EQUAL, than white kids. And, when its time to plea, they will give the brothers shittier deals than the white person who committed the same crime. The numbers are there, the literature is there. That you pull a Trump and are unwilling to accept it is another thing.

    For example, as we have seen, your ilk has taken to stopping blacks on bikes (I think that’s the name of your program, Blacks on Bikes), and, at times, even shooting and killing them. Before the pandemic, I saw a racist cop by SC stop a car with several brothers for, supposedly, a problem with a rear light. Yet, right in front of the overweight officers, where a bunch of white kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk, against traffic, every which way, all infractions like the brothers. Yet, when I pointed out to the porcine officer he said and did nothing, aside from the dirty look that comes from an overweight man whose dinner is being delayed.

    When this pandemic is over I’d be more than happy to meet you on the corner of Hoover and Jefferson, or better yet Hoover and 28th by the fraternity row, and point out every white boy and white girl riding their bike in an illegal manner so that you can stop, search and cite. They will be riding their bicycle just like Kizzee, but you will not dare to do anything. Instead, you kill Kizzee and now Carl Douglas is going to get a new Porsche, and then some.

  • Oh boy.
    CF, you lost your audience….all one of them, namely…me, at “you pick the person you arrest.”

    Dude….blue slips never had a pre designated race attached to them. If you break the law you go to jail, unless you live in California, then you sorta go to jail but not really.

    Your hate of police clouds the facts. I’m sorry that maybe you weren’t competent enough to become a cop in a state with some pretty easy minimums. Your mobs are almost out of time. Once 45 wins the gloves will be off and the streets will be returned to peaceful neighborhoods once again.

  • CF you don’t know a thing about me, the people I work with or the people I take to jail you cop hating bigot. People of color, Black males especially, put in a lot of work to be able to commit as much crime, especially violent crime, as they do in this country. The victims most often are people who look just like them and I’ve yet to hear you say anything about that. Their loss, their pain means nothing to you.
    No, it’s always the cop that’s your target, same goes for Celeste, Taylor and the people who pen her guest articles. Why is that you ignore these victims? See, we don’t, we can’t. We see it first hand, not sitting in some office or from our homes or whatever bar you’re posting from.
    Attacks on cops are way up, felony attacks in Southern California, over 150% and homicides are up as well, 25% or so concentrated mostly in South Central but this isn’t an attention getter for the Social Justice types and cop haters. Why is that?
    In your drivel about the cops on the T-stop, they were suppose to stop it to jack some guys on bikes because they were White? You’re a clown and nothing more. Not a shred of decency in you and you care nothing for the lives of decent Black and Brown people, just a posing puss with hate as a motivation for being here, nothing else.
    We need thousands of more bad guys and gals in jail, thankfully the one who stabbed the MTA worker to death got hooked quickly, not that you would care. Oh wait. maybe you do, wasn’t a cop that died.
    By the way, all those people on bikes, probably college students in that area unless a gangster or obvious thug and even you could pick those out but tell me CF, what do you think the crime stats for that area will tell you about who the majority of suspects are that are committing crimes there? White boys? Truly stfu, you sound so ignorant, so damn silly.

    Got all that tard? Good, now get back to the gutter.

  • The Defund the Police idiots wanted Metro to rid the system of police and security. Any of them care to explain that to the Metro worker’s family. You know the one who died from a stab wound to the chest????

Leave a Comment