Prop 20: California voters reject tough-on-crime measure

Crime Scene File Photo.

California voters on Tuesday rejected Prop. 20, a measure that would have added more crimes to the list of nonviolent felonies for which early parole is restricted, and required DNA collection for certain types of misdemeanors, the Associated Press reported.

Prop. 20 also would have increased penalties for those convicted of repeated retail thefts, toughen parole standards and allow for broader DNA collections. At the same time, it would have given prosecutors new flexibility to charge some property crimes, such as “serial shoplifting” and car theft, as felonies rather than misdemeanors. 

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In addition, Prop. 20 would have increased penalties for former inmates who violate the terms of their supervised release three times, making it more likely that they will be sent back to jail or prison and would have doubled the number of felonies that disqualify those incarcerated in prison from being able to apply for early parole consideration.

Supporters of a tough-on-crime approach have argued they felt a need to address the “unintended consequences” when voters in 2014 approved lower penalties for drug and property crimes and two years later allowed most felons to be paroled from prison earlier.

Opponents have countered that Prop. 20 would set back reforms just as the nation focuses on a criminal justice system that has treated people of color inequitably. They outraised supporters of the measure with help from the former governor, who chipped in $1 million from his left-over campaign account.

Violent and property crime rates continued their decline through last year, but the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California reported a “troubling” increase in assaults and homicides during the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco. Rapes and robberies were down, as were larcenies and residential burglaries, but car thefts and commercial burglaries increased.