An Overview of Prop 47

Proposition 47 is one component of California's larger effort to reduce prison overcrowding and improve the quality of medical and mental health care. 


Prop 47 is known as The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Initiative. It was passed in November 2014 and went into effect immediately. As a result of Prop 47, six low-level, non-serious crimes will now be charged as misdemeanors instead of felonies:

  • Petty theft of money or property valued between $50 and $950.
  • Shoplifting of property valued at less than $950.
  • Receiving stolen property valued at less than $950.
  • Writing bad checks of less than $950.
  • Check forgery of less than $950.
  • Drug possession for personal use with no intent to sell.

The savings from reductions in prison population will be used as follows:

  • 65% will go to mental health and substance use services
  • 25% will go to truancy prevention
  • 10% will go to victims of violent crime

If an individual is sentenced with a misdemeanor, he or she can face up to one year in jail, probation, or fines.

Why is Prop 47 Important?

According to researchers at Stanford University:

  • 45% of people in state prisons have been treated for severe mental illness.
  • 60% of people in jails have symptoms of serious mental health disorders.
  • In California, it costs $51,000 per year to hold an individual in prison in the general population compared to $20,412 to provide housing and outpatient treatment. 
  • Mentally ill-offenders receive longer sentences than non-mentally ill offenders, across all felonies.
  • Recidivism rates remain high without post-release supports.

According to Prop47Impacts, the legislation has the potential to support individual recovery on many levels:

  • Without a felony on their record, people will be better able to find jobs, get housing, secure benefits, vote, and many other things that make re-entry easier.
  • With access to effective community treatment, they can find better ways to alleviate the symptoms and real-life stressors that can trigger mental health crises, hospitalizations and criminal behavior, while rebuilding their relationships, skills, and connections to the community.