Voting for Criminal Justice Reform

This week’s election results included passage of two ballot measures that significantly advance criminal justice reforms. In California, voters approved Proposition 47, which reclassifies half a dozen property and drug offenses – including shoplifting, theft and personal use of most illegal drugs – from felonies to misdemeanors. The measure is expected to save the state about $150 million a year that will be used to support a number of education and health-related programs aimed at expanding alternatives to incarceration. Grantee Californians for Safety and Justice supported the changes. Grantee The Sentencing Project prepared a brief summary of Proposition 47 and sentencing reforms in California.

New Jersey voters approved a measure that will allow judges to deny bail to dangerous individuals. But that relatively narrow change is tied to more comprehensive bail reform that has been enacted and now needs to be implemented. Among the most significant reforms will be the introduction of a risk assessment system to help determine which individuals are safer to release pending trial. A report released last year by grantee New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance found that more than half of the state’s jail population was charged with nonviolent offenses, nearly 40 percent had the option to post bail, but did not have the financial resources to do so, and more than 10 percent could have been released pending trial with $2,500 or less.


The Public Welfare Foundation supports efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. These efforts honor the Foundation’s core values of racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. The Foundation looks for strategic points where its funds can make a significant difference and improve lives through policy and system reform that results in transformative change. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter or on Facebook.

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