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SD Sheriff: Proposition 47 Enabled Date Rape

Although Proposition 47 promised hundreds of millions of dollars for schools, mental health, and victim services by downgrading drug possession from a felony, it also downgraded date-rape drug possession from a sexual-offender felony to a misdemeanor, according to San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore.

In an article for the “Opinion” section of the Voice of San Diego entitled “The Ramifications of Prop. 47 Are Coming Into Focus–and They Don’t Bode Well for Communities,” Sheriff Gore writes on the first anniversary of the initiative that he says is having “far-reaching and major unintended consequences that, ironically, reduce the prospects for rehabilitative treatments and undermine the effectiveness of proven crime-fighting tactics.”

With the support of a coalition of civil libertarian, philanthropists, Democrats and organized labor claiming the November 5, 2014 ballot initiative would ultimately reduce crime and the statewide prison population, the measure passed by 58 percent to 42 percent.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, stated at the victory celebration, “The overwhelming support for this reform sends a powerful message nationally, demonstrating that voters are not just ready but eager to reduce prison populations in ways that can enhance public safety,” according to the Sacramento Bee at the time.

Sheriff Gore agrees that Prop. 47 “seemingly offered a fiscally balanced and rehabilitative approach” to managing the escalating prison population, and has resulted in 3,700 inmates processed for reduced sentences and released from state prison.

But instead of just mandating downgrades to misdemeanors for certain victimless drug possession crimes, Prop 47 “also requires misdemeanor sentencing for petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging/writing bad checks when the amount involved is $950 or less.”

Qualifying defendants that have served their time for felonies or are on parole can now apply to be resentenced for a misdemeanor. That means that “tens, if not hundreds of thousands” of mandatory DNA samples in the statewide database that were taken over the years from suspected and convicted felons can now be destroyed and made unavailable as a potential “match for a murder or rape case,” under Prop 47.

The Sheriff adds, “Offender participation in rehabilitative mental health and drug programs is down throughout the state.” A recent study from Los Angeles County saw a 60 percent decrease in participation for its rehabilitative drug program for methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine use. “By reducing a drug offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, Prop. 47 removed the incentive for a drug offender to enter into an 18-month drug treatment program when the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor drug offense is six months or even less.”

One of the most dangerous consequences of Prop 47 passage is that “offenders who possess ‘date rape’ drugs – commonly used to sexually assault women – can now only be charged with a misdemeanor, which means that their DNA can’t be collected. Law enforcement has lost a valuable tool in our fight against sexual violence.”

Sheriff Gore argues further: “Most in law enforcement understand that incarceration alone is neither an effective nor cost-beneficial strategy to address crime.” He concludes that Prop 47 undermined valuable tools that law enforcement had used to protect the public and rehabilitate drug attics.

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