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Sheriff: vote no on Proposition 47
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson is asking voters to vote against Proposition 47. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

In what seems to be a cynical ploy to deceive voters, the proponents of Proposition 47 conjured up the name "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act" for a collection of bad ideas that will produce the opposite of what that title portends.

If you are asking yourself how letting up to 10,000 felons out of prison and decreasing penalties for crimes like gun theft, possession of date rape drugs, and identity theft will make you safer and protect your children, you are in good company.

We can all agree that at some level, criminals must face meaningful consequences for violating the law. Prop 47 turns that idea on its head. The penalties for serious crimes will be reduced and felons already in prison for their transgressions will be entitled to resentencing to county jail or outright release. And you don't have to take our word for it - the proponents have boasted that as many as 10,000 prisoners could be released if Prop 47 passes.

Existing law recognizes the severity of stealing a gun. Prop 47, however, would turn gun theft into a misdemeanor. Stealing firearms can only make a community less safe, but the "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act" decreases the penalty for that crime to a mere slap on the wrist.

And speaking of guns, by converting felonies to misdemeanors, criminals who would otherwise be prohibited from possessing a firearm would be allowed to own guns. Misdemeanors generally do not carry the same gun ownership restrictions that felonies do, so the passage of Prop 47 will lead to the increased arming of convicted criminals.

Prop 47 also severely decreases the penalty for drug possession. Keep in mind we are not talking about possession of marijuana (which, under existing law, is punishable only as an infraction and carries no jail time whatsoever), but rather hardcore drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and GHB (a drug often used to perpetrate date rape). That's right, a predator who possesses date rape drugs will only be criminally liable for a misdemeanor under Prop 47.

The measure presents the potential to cripple California's fragile, yet recovering economy. By reducing the penalty for commercial burglary to a straight misdemeanor, Prop 47 declares open season on retail businesses. Additionally, this misguided measure reduces the available sanction for the theft of crops, livestock, and other agricultural crime. California rises and falls on the strength of our agricultural economy and Prop 47 invites theft targeting our farmers and ranchers.

Also worth noting is the get-out-of-jail free card given to those who commit forgery or write bad checks. In this time of increased technology and near-constant data breaches, we should not be putting out the welcome mat for those criminals who would cheat, scam, and steal using our stolen identities.

As you can see, there are a myriad of reasons to oppose Prop 47, and they are bolstered by the likelihood that the supposed financial savings trumpeted by the supporters will not materialize. What we know for certain however, is that as thousands of felons leave state prison, this measure will create even more pressure on our aged and overcrowded jails, putting another unfunded mandate on front-line law enforcement officers who will be forced to interact with the criminals released by Prop 47.

Proponents will tell you that all this measure does is give first-time offenders and petty criminals a second chance while saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars. The truth is, those types of offenders rarely end up in jails or prison. By law, first time drug offenders cannot be sent to jail or prison and most counties have diversion and probation programs that allow judges and prosecutors to appropriately sanction minor crime by rookie criminals. And the savings generated by Prop 47 are illusory; a cheap, political trick designed to con voters into thinking schools and students will be showered with all of the money saved by releasing felons into our neighborhoods.

In the end, it all boils down to the fact that Prop 47 will result in more crime, new victims, and less safety. Safe Neighborhoods and Schools? Not if Prop 47 passes.

As your sheriff, I ask that you please vote no on Nov. 4.