RAC-CA Opposes Proposition 20: Criminal Sentencing, Parole, and DNA Collection

Context and Jewish Values

In the past decade, California voters and lawmakers, encouraged by RAC-CA, enacted more than a dozen legal changes that have prioritized local public safety rehabilitation programs over long prison sentences. These reforms have saved hundreds of millions of dollars by reallocating resources toward preparing people in prison to return to the community and expanding trauma recovery services for victims of crime. They have also helped the state comply with the federal lawsuit on prison conditions and reduced the crowded prison population while crime rates have remained historically low.

These reforms are in keeping with Jewish teaching, by moving away from simple punishment toward supporting teshuvah, repentance. This central Jewish concept affirms that a criminal is a human being, capable of reshaping his or her life. "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezekiel 33:11).

What the Measure Would Do

Proposition 20 would work to reverse the significant gains of these reforms by repealing key aspects of Public Safety Realignment, Proposition 47, and Proposition 57, two initiatives that RAC-CA strongly supported. Specifically, it would:

  1. Discourage people in prison from rehabilitating themselves before release by making many crimes ineligible for earned time credit.
  2. Incarcerate people for the lowest-level offenses.  Prop 20 would reduce California’s threshold for felony theft to one of the lowest in the nation, wasting taxpayer dollars to incarcerate people for nonviolent crimes.
  3. Return people to prison for noncriminal violations of probation.  Prop 20 would force California to rely on ineffective forms of supervision, making Californians less safe.

Propositions 47, 57 and Realignment saved hundreds of millions of dollars that would have been spent incarcerating people. Proposition 47 also helped expand the number of trauma recovery centers for crime victims from one to twelve. If Prop 20 passes, thousands of more people could be incarcerated annually – further crowding our prisons during the COVID pandemic and reducing the money available for trauma recovery services.

Law enforcement still has the tools to convict, sentence and incarcerate people to long sentences for serious and violent crimes and has continued to do so in the decade since Propositions 47, 57 and Realignment became law.  Rather than repeal criminal justice reforms that are moving the state in the right direction, lawmakers should build on these reforms and expand treatment and rehabilitation to make our communities even safer.

For More information:

  • The text of the proposition is here
  • Find a Fact Sheet from the No on Prop 20 coalition here.