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City backs resolution calling for more Prop. 47 funds

LOS ANGELES — The City Council backed a resolution March 1 urging Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers to increase the amount of funding proposed for drug treatment, mental health, re-entry and other services promised under Proposition 47.

The measure, approved by voters in 2014, reduced six categories of non-violent felonies to misdemeanors and called for using savings from locking up fewer inmates on preventative and rehabilitation services.

The funds would go toward programs intended to help former inmates re-enter society, reduce the rate of individuals returning to prison and steer youth away from criminal activity. A portion of the funds was also allocated to services for the victims of crimes.

However, a disagreement has arisen over the amount of those savings, with Brown estimating costs to be cut by $29.3 million as part of his January budget proposal, while others say that figure should be between $100 million to $200 million.

The higher amount is based on the state Legislative Analyst’s Office’s projections when the ballot initiative was written, and also more recently when the office released an updated calculation in February.

The City Council, siding with the higher savings figures, approved a resolution by Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Joe Buscaino that calls on Brown to reconsider his initial funding proposal.

Before joining the City Council in 2015, Harris-Dawson was president of Community Coalition, a South Los Angeles advocacy group that actively pushed for passage of Proposition 47 as part of a statewide alliance called California Calls.

Harris-Dawson said he believes the state’s savings from keeping fewer people locked up in its prisons should be “in the neighborhood of a $130 million estimate.”

Proposition 47 helped to reduce the prison population, which had grown so large that a judge had threatened to assume control over state prisons, but it is also important to ensure people do not return from prison or going there in the first place, according to Harris-Dawson.

“You can save a little money here and go on the cheap, but those people are not going to go away if they do not get the services and they are not able to gain re-entrance to the community,” Harris-Dawson said.

“Eventually you’re going to end up paying the price, and that price is lives, all too often.”

Karren Lane, vice president of policy with Community Coalition, said their group and other organizations are asking that the county Board of Supervisors also approve a similar resolution.

“We’re encouraged our local leaders are stepping up to the plate to actually put pressure on the state to ensure that there’s enough resources in local neighborhoods and communities for prevention and treatment services,” Lane said.

Lane said Brown’s figure, based on calculations by the Department of Finance, fails to account for savings from keeping fewer people in contract prisons, such as those located out of state.

Under Proposition 47, the state had a year to calculate how much the state would save from releasing inmates and locking up fewer people. The first pot of funding is scheduled to be released in July and divvied up among local organizations and agencies that offer such services.

Lane said there is a statewide push for Brown and other state officials to increase the funding proposal in the May revise of the budget and ultimately in June, when the spending plan is expected to be finalized.