Inside the Ballot: Propositions 17 & 20

Inside California Politics

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — A pair of propositions could make some changes to California’s criminal justice and parole system.

Proposition 20 aims to boost penalties for certain property crimes, like serial shoplifting and car theft, making them felonies instead of misdemeanors. It also increases penalties for those who violate parole three times and adds to the list of felonies disqualifying inmates eligible for early release — including child abuse, domestic violence and hate crimes.

Supporters say the initiative overall makes adjustments to a set of laws that were passed in an attempt to slow mass incarceration, which they say took away some important law enforcement tools.

“It eliminated DNA collection from some low-level offenders. The problem with that that department of justice studies have shown that collection of DNA from low-level offenders solves violent crimes like rape and murder. So, that’s a valuable crime solving tool that we lost,” Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, said.

But opponents argue Proposition 20 rolls back effective criminal justice reforms and could be costly, noting it could cost millions annually.

“It’s a prison spending initiative,” Daniel Seeman, of the No on 20 campaign, said. “The proponents of this have managed to mash about 30 years worth of failed criminal justice policy into one initiative.”

Another proposition on the November ballot, Proposition 17, would give Californians on parole the right to vote.

Supporters note 19 other states allow people to vote once a prison sentence is completed.

“Every voice, every person is being taken into consideration. Republicans, Democrats, independents, we need to make sure everybody has a vote, regardless of social status,” supporter Jose Gonzalez said.

Opponents warn this gives serious criminals the ability to vote sooner than the law would otherwise allow.

“If the right to vote had been important enough for them in the first place, it would’ve been a deterrent for them committing the crime in the first place,” Proposition 17 opponent Colynn Britain said.

If passed, about 50,000 parolees would have the right to vote restored.

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