Californians support reducing sentences for nonviolent criminals

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 05, 2014 2:33 PM

(Reuters) - California voters passed a measure on Tuesday that will reduce the sentences of nonviolent offenders, potentially releasing 10,000 felons from state prisons.

Proposition 47 won the support of 59 percent of voters, California Secretary of State records show.

About 40,000 offenders could be annually affected by the new law, reported the state's Legislative Analyst's Office. State savings from the reduction in prisoner population would be used to support school truancy and dropout prevention, victim services, mental health and drug abuse treatment.

The ballot measure had won favor among an eclectic group of supporters, including substantial financial backing from conservative B. Wayne Hughes, Jr. of the Public Storage empire; a liberal George Soros-backed philanthropic foundation; and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

The main opposition stemmed from law enforcement groups, although San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and former San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne also came out in favor of the initiative.

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Supporters vastly outspent opponents by 12 to 1, according to election site Voter's Edge and Maplight, a California-based political tracking nonprofit group. Overall, supporters raised $5.2 million.

The measure reduces sentences of nonviolent property and drug crimes, such as grand theft, shoplifting, writing bad checks and check forgery and drug possession.

(Reporting by Robin Respaut; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)