California has spent the last decade reforming its state criminal justice system to serve its residents better and provide safety to its citizens, while many law enforcement argue that reforms undermine the safety of the public.

The reduced number of incarcerated people in the state has greatly reduced the costs that prisons need. California has saved millions of dollars which could be used to support the community, including incentivizing prevention and treatment, and providing educational and economic opportunities.

Justice System Reforms

In 2019, the state recorded its lowest rates of property and violent crime in history. Arrests and imprisonments fail to solve California’s problems, such as homelessness, and economic and mental health issues. Prevention is, more often than not, a better way of providing safety to residents.

Previous reforms have begun working on addressing the state’s issues and problems, such as Proposition 47, which aims to reduce recidivism. The law proposes funding to provide service and support for people who have experienced the justice system. But many believe that the new system changes are not enough.

Last November, in the majority of counties in California, residents explicitly expressed their disagreement with Proposition 20. The law, if passed, would have increased the number of people in jails. Residents are urging politicians to look for ways to provide safety rather than incarcerating more people.

California laws restrict previously incarcerated people from moving forward with their lives after serving their sentences, paying their debt, and leaving the justice system.

The executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, Jay Jordan, leads one of California’s top justice reform organizations. However, he had had a history of being incarcerated when he was young, which restricts him from doing several activities with his two children.

Jordan has spent the last few years mentoring and serving young people to help them avoid the justice system and lead a better life. However, he argued that the number of legal restrictions stifled his goal. He is not allowed to join his homeowner’s association even after more than ten years since his crime.

A Normal Life

There are nearly eight million other residents of California who have a history of conviction that prevents them from taking advantage of opportunities such as employment, housing, education, and more. Jordan argued that the restrictions failed to reach their goal of assuring public safety and instead undermines it.

Every year, California spends $50 billion to support its justice system that is not successful in helping its citizens live a normal and safe life. Moving a small portion of the funding to areas such as crime prevention could help hundreds of thousands of patients that suffer from mental health problems. Additionally, the money could support addicts in quitting their vice and provide housing to residents with complex physical and behavioral health needs, Cal Matters reported.

Californians for Safety and Justice released a 2017 report that argued saving $1.5 billion from the justice system fund by closing five prisons. In the next two years, California State Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration is scheduled to close down two prisons. The state has spent more than $100 billion in the last decade without delivering sufficient safety assurance.

Jordan supported Newsom’s commitment to reducing the state’s corrections budget. However, he argued it should also be accompanied by efforts to revise extreme sentencing laws. Racial disparity was made more evident by sentence enhancements and determinate sentencing. They also negatively impacted the economic stability and made residents feel less safe.