Merry Christmas: Gov. Jerry Brown Just Issued Dozens of Drug Pardons in California

December 26th 2014

California Gov. Jerry Brown just made Christmas a lot sweeter for dozens of families, issuing 105 pardons to convicted criminals, most of whom committed non-violent, drug-related crimes.

Brown has now pardoned more than 500 people since becoming governor in 2011. Those receiving pardons had already completed any prison sentences over a decade ago. (So, this won't affect California's overcrowded prisons.) The pardons do not erase these convictions, but they reinstate certain rights like the right to serve on a jury. Those receiving pardons can again purchase firearms (as long as a gun was not involved in their conviction) and serve as state and county parole agents.

California Gov. Jerry Brown

Prop 47 is a bigger deal

While Brown's pardons are helpful to the cause of drug reform, California voters approved a measure last month that should have a bigger impact. The new law, Proposition 47, reclassifies “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor. As The Los Angeles Times writes, Prop 47 should prove to be a "speedier" alterative to the years-long pardon process. Prop 47 also could reduce the number of “less qualified” people—those who are imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses—in state prisons and county jails, and save the state huge sums of money. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Prop. 47 could make 20,000 current incarcerated people eligible for resentencing, reduce new admissions by up to 60,000 each year, and nominate between 500,000 and 1 million Californians for automatic felony expungement.

Drug reform also saves money

On the financial end, the money saved from Prop 47—projected to be more than $1 billion over the next five years—will be funneled back into valuable public institutions like schools, victim services, mental health, and drug addiction treatment programs. Not only will thousands of prisoners be able to hurdle the barriers to employment, education, housing, and other public programs brought on by blighted criminal records, the state simultaneously avoids misguided spending.

America is still addicted to prisons

America is a nation with roughly 5 percent of the world's population yet 25 percent of its prisoners. During the last 30 years, this number has skyrocketed, increasing over 400 percent. In this illuminating video, YouTube personality Hank Green explains why:

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