LA Deputy District Attorneys: Prop. 47 Is a Crime Creator AND Economic Loss

The Legislative Analysts Office (LAO) usually does A+ work. But even the best makes a mistake. In this case, whether or not Prop.47 has “saved” tax dollars is a gigantic mistake. The question is simple, when asking if a system or policy saved money, you need to take all the factors into account. The LAO just noted a small portion of the equation—fewer people in jail or prison means less correctional costs. Not included in the COST of the added crime, thefts, insurance pay offs, hospital and funeral bills—plus the cost of the public buying guns and ammunition, paying for weapons training, lock boxes, etc…to protect yourself from the Prop. 47 savings.

“It has been a colossal failure.  It should have been entitled the “Make Our Neighborhoods and School Less Safe Act” which is the sole and inevitable reality of deliberately releasing known criminals onto the street. Prop 47 is a cost-shifting shell game. Innocent people are incurring heavy costs –physical and emotional – while criminals are reaping the rewards due to a lack of punishment and no incentive to abide by the law or be well-functioning members of society. The only beneficiary of this proposition were thieves and drug offenders.”

The new victims are paying the price of “saving” money on prisoners—think it is worth it?

Police tape

ADDA President Comments on Legislative Analyst’s Office Prop. 47 Report

Marc Debbaudt, Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, 2/12/16 . 

Los Angeles, February 12, 2016 – The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) today released a report which provides an overview of the major effects of Proposition 47 on the state and makes recommendations for a framework for satisfying the measure’s requirement that the state savings it creates be deposited into a new special fund. This report, “The 2016-17 Budget: Fiscal Effects of Proposition 47” can be accessed at the LAO website— In response, Marc Debbaudt, President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys issued the following statement:

The Legislative Analyst’s Office report on the savings claimed to have occurred as a result of Prop 47 is not only interesting in what they studied, but also in what they failed to analyze.   The report basically says that the State saved the costs associated for accommodating 4700 inmates who would have been accused of felonies. No surprise there. The report conveniently does not discuss the costs of having those inmates housed as misdemeanors in the County jails. So, no mention of the inevitable offset of cost-shifting crime from the State to the County. The report also curiously knowledges that by reducing felonies to misdemeanors the State anticipated that there would be at least 6000 fewer filings across the state. In other words, the State predicted that police and prosecutors wouldn’t want to waste everyone’s time now that the Prop 47 crimes had no penal consequence. Obviously, fewer filings equals increased monetary savings to the State. Again, no surprise there. Not that there are fewer crimes, but that there is an unwillingness to prosecute them because the State made them meaningless. Crime hasn’t been stopped; it’s just been ignored. According to the Legislative Analyst, the State saw this coming and did nothing to address it.

Sadly, not everything can be measured in dollars and cents, and there is not one mention of the real costs, economic and emotional, associated with releasing criminals. Costs that the State anticipated, but ignored. Yes, they saved the costs of housing felons. But what is the true cost of increased crime on the communities of released and untreated criminals? As I have said for over a year, Prop 47 unleashed a torrent of harmful repercussions that the creators of this impetuous piece of legislation never considered – and have yet to take responsibility for or address.  So, congratulations, the State has more money! Unfortunately, they now have more crime and more victims. The savings does not offset the human toll. By my calculation, in the balancing test of what is most important, the losses trump the savings, and the Legislative Analyst’s report is more deceptive nonsense.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office report should be a wake-up call for the California Legislature to fix immediately some of the most glaring flaws of this ludicrous piece of social engineering and acknowledge that the voting public was misled by this deceptively named proposition that purportedly would create safer neighborhoods and schools across the state.  It has been a colossal failure.  It should have been entitled the “Make Our Neighborhoods and School Less Safe Act” which is the sole and inevitable reality of deliberately releasing known criminals onto the street. Prop 47 is a cost-shifting shell game. Innocent people are incurring heavy costs –physical and emotional – while criminals are reaping the rewards due to a lack of punishment and no incentive to abide by the law or be well-functioning members of society. The only beneficiary of this proposition were thieves and drug offenders.

Critics have cried out that the U.S. corrections system is simply a “revolving-door” that does not work and does not help to address the root causes of criminality.  Prop 47’s answer is to simply open the door— to permit those who commit crimes to remain free to roam our streets without consequence for their actions.  A policy allegedly premised on a different approach to treating criminals has devolved in actual practice into “no punishment” and “no rehabilitation.” This is a fatally flawed policy and a disaster inflicted upon the public who were duped. Prop 47 has not only sacrificed law-abiding citizens out of compassion for criminals, but it also has yet to deliver on its intended goal of changing the behavior of drug addicts and thieves. I submit, it will never be able to do so because it has relinquished all leverage to compel criminals to change. Releasing thieves to commit more crimes and allowing drug offenders to roam freely in the community without mandating and imposing treatment does absolutely nothing to alter criminal behavior.

Backup Information/Facts


  • Since the passage of Prop 47, close to 4,000 inmates have had their sentences reduced and have been released from state prisons into our communities.
  • In the city of Los Angeles, violent crimes such as aggravated assaults and robberies soared 20.6 percent through the first nine months of 2015 compared with the same period in the previous year. Property crimes such as burglaries and motor vehicle thefts rose 10.9%
  • Of the nearly 4,500 people that L.A. County sheriff’s deputies arrested for Prop 47 crimes since the initiative’s implementation in November 2014, more than 460 have been arrested again – some on multiple occasions (May 2015).  This means that people who theoretically would have been behind bars for the crimes they had committed are roaming the streets and continuing to victimize innocent and law-abiding residents.
  • The toll of these crimes on the victims does not end when the crime is completed.  When a criminal steals property, takes an identity to commit a theft, or forges checks, the victim suffers a loss of personal privacy and security that lingers.  It takes valuable time to contact the authorities, banks, creditors, and businesses – not to mention to regain (if at all possible) the sense of security and privacy that the victims once had.

Criminal Justice System

  • No matter what your criminal history may be – even if you have served time for a serious or violent crime – you can no longer be sent back to prison if convicted of a new theft or drug crime because they have been reclassified as misdemeanor offenses.  Basically, an individual’s prior criminal history is no longer considered in determining whether an offense should be prosecuted as a felony since Prop 47 offenses can now only be misdemeanors, meaning state prison is no longer a possible punishment or deterrent.
  • According to the LAPD and LA County Sheriff’s Department, narcotic-related arrests in those two departments have decreased by nearly 50%.  Officers realize the time spent arresting narcotic offenders for misdemeanor crimes is a waste of time because there is virtually no punishment and no chance for drug treatment.
  • Sheriff Jim McDonnell wrote an article that details how “Thanks to Prop. 47, Californians are less safe than they were a year ago.”
  • The costs to prosecute these crimes haven’t just magically disappeared.  To the extent they are being prosecuted by City Attorneys, the costs have just been shifted from the County District Attorney to other local agencies.  This is not savings; this is merely a shift of costs from the County to the City.  There are no actual savings throughout the criminal justice system because no matter what the crime is the costs of courts, prosecutors, public defenders, clerks, court reporters, jurors, bailiffs, transportation from jails to courts, etc., still has to be paid.  Reclassifying a crime from a felony to a misdemeanor does not change the associated court costs.

Rehabilitation and Treatment Facilities

  • Due to Prop 47’s passage, the criminal justice system lost all leverage to mandate rehabilitative drug programs.  There is no longer any incentive for an offender to accept a court-ordered 18-month to two-year intensive treatment program when the actual maximum consequence for a drug conviction is only six months in county jail. That’s the maximum that can be imposed but only after a successful jury trial. That actual 6 month maximum is never a result of a plea bargain because a defendant doesn’t plea to the max.
  • Treatment program enrollments are down 60% in L.A. County, and addicted offenders are not getting the treatment they desperately need because they don’t have to attend and complete a rehab program.  The social engineers of this policy claimed that it was about rehabilitation, yet there is absolutely no rehabilitation taking place.
  • In 2013, 60% of adult males booked into jails across the country tested positive for drugs, regardless of their offense (LA Times).  It is undisputed that drug use increases the odds of criminal activity, yet no effort has been made to create a policy scheme that addresses this problem.
  • Drug addicts now escape punishment for crimes they commonly commit to support their habits, such as shoplifting, writing bad checks and any thefts under $950 – even of guns.  This leniency in punishment only helps to encourage and facilitate criminal behavior and does nothing at all to address the root cause of the problem – drug addiction.
  • Perhaps the beliefs that we cannot simply incarcerate our way out of our nation’s drug problem and that rehabilitation is essential have merit. However, rehabilitation has no chance to work when those who need it do not have to attend the programs designed to accomplish this goal.


Sex Crimes & DNA

  • Proposition 47 took away a critical asset to fight sex crimes when it reduced the penalty for possession of date-rape drugs to a misdemeanor.  The only reason to possess a date-rape drug is to commit rape. Why would you pass a law that allows possession of a drug that facilitates rape to go unpunished? Why would you eliminate this obvious way to potentially prevent that heinous crime from occurring? This legislation gives those who possess such a drug a free pass to commit their crimes.
  • Thousands of fewer DNA samples are being taken from suspects every month because state law permits police to collect DNA only from felony suspects.  Obviously, this will make it much harder, if not impossible, to solve old cases such as murder and rape. As a result of Prop 47 the percentage of future violent crimes that could have been solved through DNA matches will decrease dramatically.


Marc Debbaudt is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.  He can be contacted at [email protected]. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.


About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.


  1. If only there were an off-shore island that CA could use as a penal colony….
    say, what’s the Navy doing with Coronado these days?

    • To close to the shoreline. Catalina or maybe the Farallons. I like the Farallons because the Great Whites live there.

  2. Anyone who follows the content on SFGate knows what is happening in San Francisco these days, with parked cars routinely being broken into and stolen from. In a way, it’s fun to read the comments posted by S.F.’s legion of Progressive deniers who claim, with a straight face, that Prop. 47 has absolutely nothing to do with the sudden epidemic.

  3. Michele Joyce says

    Is it possible to put prop 47 back on the ballot and vote against on it? I bet a lot of people who voted for it would think twice of voting it in now with all the crime we are seeing. Hope we can re-vote

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