By Louis Libert, NASW-CA Staff
California has made a lot of progress in criminal justice reform in the past 10 years with the passage of Prop 47, Prop 57, and AB109. All of these reform efforts have contributed to some of the lowest incarceration rates in our state’s history. Prop 20 threatens to roll back the gains made by these initiatives. The narrative that proponents of Prop 20 are pushing is that crime is on the rise in California. This is simply not true. Crime rates across California have been declining steadily since the early 90’s. The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California has put together some great resources outlining crime trends in California going back as far as the 1960’s. You can view them here: https://www.ppic.org/publication/crime-trends-in-california/
Prop 20 would prolong prison sentences, block parole opportunities, limit rehabilitation, and push parolees back into the prison system. This would:
- Devastate families and communities, particularly communities of color by incarcerating more Californians and saddling them with a felony record.
- Crowd the state’s prisons and jails, resulting in unsafe living conditions – in the COVID-19 outbreaks we are already seeing terrible consequences of unsafe prison conditions.
- Cost hundreds of millions of dollars per year and divert resources from social programs and community-based services.
Prop 20 would re-classify a number of misdemeanors into felonies. As an example, it would set the threshold for felony shoplifting to $250 which would be one of the lowest in the country.
Here are some of the organizations that are opposed to Prop 20:
- ACLU of California
- California Democratic Party
- California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
- California Teachers Association
- Chief Probation Officers of California
- SEIU California
I’ve been heavily involved in the No on Prop 20 Campaign. Phone banking has been one of the biggest outreach approaches for the campaign. I know a lot of folks have already voted but when I phone banked this past Tuesday (October 27) I found many had not yet voted and were not familiar with the details of Prop 20.
Phone banking has become much more sophisticated during this election cycle. It’s really easy to get connected to people. The tool that I’m familiar with is web-based. You log in to a website and an auto-dialer on the website keeps trying numbers on the list until someone picks up. As the caller you don’t hear the phone ringing, answering machines picking up, or anything else until you are actually connected to a live person who picks up the phone. At that point a script comes on the screen and guides you through the conversation based on the responses of the person you’re talking to. It’s really easy to follow and as you get better at it you can customize the conversation however you’d like. It’s all done through the website. There’s no need to use your own phone. All you need is a computer and an internet connection.
The overwhelming majority of the people I spoke with were polite even when they disagreed with me. For many of them I was the first person to tell them anything substantial about Prop 20. They were generally appreciative and I got many of them to commit to vote no on Prop 20.
The No on Prop 20 Campaign is run by a great organization called Californians for Safety and Justice. Their website is here: https://safeandjust.org. If you want to participate in their final phone banking session on Saturday, you can sign up here!
The first half hour is spent training you to use the phone banking website.
And most importantly get out there and vote if you haven’t already and encourage everyone you know to do the same!
Much of the information pertaining to Prop 20 in this article was copied from the Bend the Arc website. Bend the Arc is a progressive Jewish advocacy organization. I am a volunteer leader for their Bay Area Criminal Justice Reform Committee. For more information about Bend the Arc visit their website here: https://bay.bendthearc.us.
You can reach Louis at email@example.com