Against California’s ballot initiative on retail theft, fentanyl, homelessness

In response to the misleadingly-named “Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act” qualifying for November’s ballot, Michelle Parris, director of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Vera California initiative, issued the following statement.

“California needs solutions to retail theft, fentanyl, and homelessness in order for our communities to thrive. But the ballot initiative to roll back Proposition 47 will instead take us back to a failed, expensive era of mass incarceration that will drain county budgets of the resources they need to keep our communities safe and support our local businesses. The special interests driving this initiative — including major retailers and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association — would prefer to waste Californians’ time and money once again filling our jails and prisons to the brim without doing what we know would address these problems and keep us safe.

“Prop 47 has made our communities safer. It’s reduced recidivism, and it hasn’t increased violent crime or property crime. It helped turn the tide on mass incarceration, reduced racial disparities in prisons, and diverted $800 millionsaved from the state’s prison budget to funding for much-needed services, including employment assistance for those coming out of jail, victims’ services, and housing.

“To address important issues like the fentanyl crisis, organized retail theft, or the destabilizing effects of homelessness, we need evidence-backed solutions that prevent harm, stop violence, and build thriving communities. That means regulating online resale marketplaces to prevent the sale of stolen goods, expanding ready access to behavioral health resources and community-based safety interventions like LEAD (Let Everyone Advance with Dignity / Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), building much-needed housing, and protecting tenants.

“California faces significant challenges today, and every dollar spent on this ballot initiative is a dollar that could be spent solving these problems. Those driving and funding this initiative would rather try to temporarily hide these problems out of sight — at great cost to our budgets and safety — than let the state of California and its counties do the hard work of solving them.”