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Since the passing of Proposition 47, communities across California have been meeting to discuss the unique impacts of the new law on state policymaking and local public safety, from Oakland to Los Angeles. On September 10, local elected officials, community leaders, and neighbors in Monterey County’s City of Seaside gathered in Friendship Baptist Church to learn about both the local and state-wide implementation of the initiative. The Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, Motivating Individuals through Public Advancement (MILPA), and The Village Project co-sponsored the town hall.

CJCJ’s Director of Policy and Development Brian Goldstein Photo by MILPA East Salinas

Proposition 47, which passed in November 2014, reclassified specific low-level felony property and drug possession offenses as misdemeanors. This sentencing reform is also retroactive; individuals can petition for a reclassification of applicable prior convictions, although they must do so by the November 5, 2017, deadline. Californians approved the initiative with nearly 60 percent of the vote, including 65 percent in Monterey County.

Five panelists spoke on different Proposition 47-related issues, each bound by a unifying call for community engagement in the implementation process. Milena Blake, from Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ), spoke of the significant and immediate positive impact for justice-involved individuals who now have the opportunity to remove certain felony convictions from their record. (Learn more about this process through CSJ’s MyProp47​.org.)

CJCJ’s Brian Goldstein discussed the forthcoming allocation of state savings, which will be calculated based on the reduced prison population as a result of Proposition 47. Specifically, California’s Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) will allocate 65 percent of these state savings for programs that address recidivism. This November, the BSCC will begin creating a specific committee to eventually recommend how that funding should be allocated. CJCJ has called for broad participation by community-based organizations, service providers, and others to ensure that the funding process supports local innovation.

Other panelists put Proposition 47 within a more local context. MILPA’s Israel Villa spoke about the community benefits, including how the reclassification process will facilitate greater access to employment, education, and housing. A representative from the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council discussed the importance of outreach to immigrant communities. Monterey County has the largest immigrant workforce in California, and successful implementation will require resources, trust, and relationship-building. Finally, a representative from the Monterey County Public Defender’s Office highlighted their substantial work to support local outreach and access to records reclassification services to those incarcerated or in the community.

Friendship Baptist Church Reverend Dr. Anthony Dunham opened the panel by noting that, in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in same church hosting the Proposition 47 town hall. Those great civil rights challenges continue to this day, as reflected in our criminal justice system. If California is to adopt a more thoughtful justice system, local communities such as East Salinas and Seaside will play an essential organizing and leadership role. The state would do well to listen, learn, and support such local innovation.