Prop. 20 sparks debate over effects of criminal justice reforms that helped reduce California’s prison populations

California
Inmates at San Quentin State Prison wait in line on August 15, 2016 in San Quentin, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Inmates at San Quentin State Prison wait in line on August 15, 2016 in San Quentin, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As much of the country weighs changes to the criminal justice system, California has had a head start, adopting a series of laws in the last decade that, among other things, helped reduce the state’s prison population by more than one-third, or 50,000 people.

Now a group of prosecutors and law enforcement leaders has placed Proposition 20 on the November statewide ballot, which would expand the list of felonies for which the convicted are ineligible for early parole; increase penalties for repeat shoplifters; and collect DNA samples from adults convicted of some misdemeanors.

Proponents argue that it is needed to fix flaws in past measures that they say are putting the public’s safety at risk, including the early release of potentially violent criminals. But opponents of the measure, who include civil rights leaders, Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Gov. Jerry Brown, say it wrongly rolls back necessary criminal justice reforms as crime has declined in recent years.

“California is ahead of the game — we’ve done so many great reforms,” said Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), a retired sheriff’s captain and proponent of Proposition 20. “But there have been unintended consequences with these reforms.”

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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