SF DA and San Diego Police Chief File Defelonization Initiative

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and San Diego Police Chief William Landsdowne filed an initiative with state officials Thursday that would defelonize most drug possession and nonviolent offenses. The move comes on the heels of so far fruitless efforts to get a defelonization bill through the state legislature.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon (wikimedia.org)
The smartly titled Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act would "require misdemeanors instead of felonies for non-serious, nonviolent crimes like petty theft and drug possession, unless the defendant has prior convictions for specified violent or serious crimes." It would also authorize resentencing for anyone sentenced as a felon for acts which would become misdemeanors.

Initiative sponsors estimate the move would save the state $250 million a year in corrections costs. The measure mandates that those savings be earmarked for programs reducing recidivism (65%), education (25%), and crime victims' services (10%).

The defelonization effort comes a year after voters approved Proposition 36, a statewide initiative, which dramatically rolled back the state's notorious "three strikes" sentencing law by exempting most nonviolent offenders. Prop 36 passed amidst a seemingly perpetual prison overcrowding and funding crisis, which has still not gone away.

"I really think the timing is right -- it's a great opportunity to reform a part of our criminal justice system that's been broken for so long," Gascon told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We are looking basically at creating a scenario where we can prioritize violent crimes, we can keep dangerous criminals locked up, but move away from locking up people who basically just need medical help."

Whether sponsors are serious about actually getting the initiative on the ballot for 2014 remains to be seen. They would have to come up with more than 500,000 signatures by April to qualify for the November ballot.

Sacramento, CA
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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It would be good if the media

It would be good if the media stopped hyping ignorance, i.e. that a person who has a toke and a cup of tea in an addict as if that is worse than having a beer, which it isn't.

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Why is it that even in California,simple common sense comes so hard?After 45 years of fighting against the intolerance and ignorance of the drug laws.Even with some of the gains that have been made.It seems like it's an endless struggle with ignorance.How in 2014,can we still be talking about felony charges for simple possession of anything?I can still remember when Jean Cretien and Jimmy Carter were proposing legalisation of cannabis.That was in the early 70's.It's been a long long road to get to where we were way back then.Things actually deteriorated considerably in both countries after those two.Canada has shown that even liberal drug policies can be reversed with the stroke of a pen.Even with all the science proving that drug prohibition has been 100 years of monumental failure.

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