Ingram, Rios, join effort to reform Prop 47

Publisher’s note: If you would like to sign a petition to place Prop 47 reforms on the ballot in November, Lassen County Supervisor Jason Ingram will be collecting signatures in front of Walmart from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 23 before the Cowboy Festival at the Lassen County Fairgrounds. The initiative is called the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act.

According to the Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office, “Prop 47 (dubbed the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act) was a ballot measure passed by California voters Nov. 5, 2014. The law made some nonviolent property crimes where the value does not exceed $950 into misdemeanors. It made some simple drug possession offenses into misdemeanors. It also provides that past convictions for these charges may be reduced to a misdemeanor by a court for some of the following offenses: Certain forgeries, commercial burglary, petty theft with priors, bad checks, grand theft crimes, possession of stolen property and possession of a controlled substance.” Some state residents praise the law and its effectiveness.

But according to Californians for Safer Communities, “Whether it’s rampant retail theft causing neighborhood store closures and higher prices for working families or the growing epidemic of fentanyl overdoses, Californians can’t afford half-measures when it comes to addressing these pressing issues. Passed in 2014, Prop 47 achieved notable success in making California’s criminal justice system more equitable. However, it led to unintended consequences over the past decade — repeat and often organized retail theft, inner-city store closings and difficulty convincing people to seek drug and mental health treatment — that can only be corrected by the voters at the ballot box with modest amendments to Prop 47. It’s time for meaningful reforms to our justice system, including to Prop 47, that ensure our communities are safe.”

Lassen County Supervisor Jason Ingram and Lassen County District Attorney Susan Rios have joined the effort to collect enough signatures to qualify Initiative 23-0017A1 on the November 2024 General Election ballot to reform Prop 47.

Ingram said he picked up a few signature forms from Rios and quickly filled them up with nearly 100 local signatures.

“This is absolutely a bad law,” Ingram said. “Our cops don’t have a foot to stand on.”

He said he recently was down in the Bay Area taking care of his father and “at Walgreens they just grab stuff and go out the door, and I asked, ‘Aren’t you going to call that in?’ and they said, ‘Nah, we don’t even bother. They don’t do anything anyway.’ This is going to change that. You can’t just fill up shopping carts and just walk out of stores. This is out of control.”

“This is a big deal,” Ingram said. “I did a post on Facebook yesterday (Friday) — I’m a numbers nerd — and I got 1,100 hits on that post. I reached more than 1,000 people in 18 hours. People care about Prop 47. People are calling right now as a matter of fact. People are calling and wanting to sign, and I’ve got to get more petitions.”

Ingram said he’s willing to meet with residents who want to sign the petitions, and he can be reached at (530) 249-6431. He said he can meet with residents after the board of supervisors’ meetings and on Thursday and Friday evenings when he’s in town. He also will be in front of Walmart between 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday, March 23 collecting signatures.

“Please call me if you’re willing to sign,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Rios enjoys a prosecutor’s view of Prop 47, although she acknowledges not every district attorney in the state shares her view.

“Prop 47 has been terrible, it’s just awful,” Rios said. “It essentially decriminalized the possession of controlled substances, and that has not helped anybody. When it used to be a felony, you could incarcerate somebody for a short period of time to help them get clean, and we saw much better success rates at people completing long-term, in-patient, residential programs because they were court-ordered to do it, and if they didn’t, they could face a local prison sentence. Now there’s no incentive to go to rehab and there’s no consequence for not going to rehab. So, you just promote controlled substance use with no consequence, and it’s unfortunate.”

“We used to be able to prior petty theft,” Rios continued. “If someone committed more than three petty thefts, it was a felony. They did away with that, and it’s a misdemeanor to steal less than $950, which is an incredible threshold to meet even with today’s inflation. Who pays the burden for that? The taxpaying consumers. When businesses take a loss because of theft, it’s the paying customers who make up for that loss. That’s not right.”

“You see statewide what the long-term effects have been, businesses just closing like crazy,” Rios said. “Look at the Bay Area — long-time institutions like Nordstroms and Walgreens that are closing up shop and leaving because they can’t keep their doors open … I’m sure there’s not just one thing to blame. I’m sure there are a lot of different economic factors, but when you combine them, it doesn’t create a thriving situation for businesses.”

“Our District Attorneys Association is working with some legislators to introduce a new proposition on the upcoming ballot that will repeal some of the detrimental provisions the voters enacted when they passed Prop 47 back in 2014,” Rios said. “We need to get 500,00 signatures to get it on the ballot — I think we’re over 300,000 statewide … The majority of district attorneys have been working in their counties with other officials and law enforcement officials in helping to get signatures so we can get this on the ballot.”

According to Californians for Safer Communities:
Addresses organized and serial retail theft
Rampant retail theft is harming businesses and residents in California because those who commit these crimes know they’ll get away with it, even if they’re caught. This measure will hold repeat offenders accountable for the safety of our communities, rather than putting them back on the streets.

  • Classifies repeated theft as a felony for individuals who steal less than $950 if they have two or more prior theft- related convictions.
  • Allows stolen property values from multiple thefts to be combined so repeat offenders can be charged with a felony if the total exceeds $950, countering tactics by career criminals to avoid harsher penalties.
  • Authorizes judges to impose an enhanced penalty when an offender steals, damages, or destroys property by participating in organized theft with two or more offenders or by causing losses of $50,000 or more.

Confronts the fentanyl crisis in our communities
The fentanyl crisis has reached alarming levels and is now responsible for 20 percent of youth deaths in California. This measure will define fentanyl as a hard drug, hold individuals convicted of trafficking fentanyl accountable and grant judges greater discretion in sentencing drug traffickers.

  • Adds fentanyl to the list of hard drugs — such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine — that are illegal to possess with a firearm and authorizes greater consequences for selling deadly quantities.
  • Enables stricter penalties for dealers whose trafficking causes death or serious injury, and warns traffickers of potential murder charges if continued drug trafficking results in fatalities.

Prioritizes mental health and drug treatment
Breaking the cycle of repeat offenders means addressing the many root causes of retail theft. This measure provides critical mental health, drug treatment services, and job training within our justice system for people who are homeless and suffering from mental illness or struggling with substance abuse.

  • Enacts a new class of crime called a “treatment-mandated felony” where offenders with multiple hard drug possession convictions would be given the option of participating in drug and mental health treatment in lieu of incarceration.
  • Allows offenders who successfully complete drug and mental health treatment to avoid jail time and have the charge fully expunged.

What others are saying
“The Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act will make targeted but impactful changes to our laws around fentanyl and help us tackle the chronic retail theft that hurts our retailers, our workers, and our cities. I fully support this measure and know it will make a meaningful difference for cities across California,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

“I am proud to lend my support to this public safety initiative that would make changes to Prop 47, which would address serious spikes to drug and theft crimes since the pandemic. Local law enforcement and my constituents are saying enough is enough. They want the state to address the increases we’re seeing in the homeless due to increased hard drug use, opioid-related overdoses, and escalating numbers of smash-and-grab and retail theft crimes,” Assemblymember James Ramos.

“We cannot be afraid to challenge the status quo when it is clearly not working for our residents. Prop 47 was well-intended but what really matters is its impact — and unfortunately, it’s hurting far too many families and small businesses across the state. We need reform that doesn’t take us back to the era of mass incarceration but allows judges to mandate treatment for those struggling with severe addiction, hold repeat offenders accountable, and treat fentanyl like the killer it is,”  San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan.