November Ballot Initiative, Backed by State’s Largest Law Enforcement Associations, Would Increase Spending on Prisons, Widen Disparities and Reduce Investments in Communities

September 10, 2020

Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice,
(909) 261-1398; [email protected]  

OAKLAND, Calif. – Several of the largest crime victims’ organizations in California sent a letter on Thursday to the mayors of the state’s 13 largest cities, asking that they stand with crime survivors in opposition to Proposition 20. The letter coincided with a press conference held by crime victims and leading district attorneys from across the state in opposition to the November statewide ballot initiative that would increase costly and disparate incarceration while slashing investments in services to help survivors

The letter was signed by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, California’s largest network of survivors of crime, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and Ruby’s Place, which provides survivors of human trafficking and domestic abuse crisis services, shelter, counseling and more.  

Sent to the mayors of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, Santa Ana and Stockton, the letter says Proposition 20 would return California to the days when it was a leader in mass incarceration and failed to prevent crime from occurring in the first place or better met the needs of crime survivors. 

Already, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf have responded by saying they oppose Proposition 20.

Read the full letter here.

“As crime survivors and those who work on their behalf every day, we support policies to prevent crime, reduce recidivism and address barriers that prevent healing,” the letter reads. “More than anything, most victims want assurances that what happened to them will never happen again – to them or anyone else.” 

Proposition 20 would undercut or eliminate entirely the hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings already realized from recent justice system reforms that have safely reduced incarceration in California. That money has been reinvested in local communities and, among other things, funded the creation of more than a dozen trauma recovery centers up and down the state that provide survivors the wrap around services they need to heal.  

An analysis released this week shows that statewide crime rates are lower today than at any other point in recorded history, yet only one in five people who survived a crime in the past 10 years received the help they needed to recover from the trauma of the crime. 

In the letter, crime victims indicate that evidence shows investments in community health, not incarceration, more effectively prevent crime. The letter also makes clear that thousands of Californians are struggling with untreated mental illness, addiction and trauma – among the most well-known drivers of crime and health vulnerabilities. 

“We believe in treatment programs and addiction services to break the cycle of crime,” the letter reads. “We believe mental health challenges should be handled…outside of traditional courts and prisons.”

Passage of Proposition 20 would result in as many as 10,000 more people being locked up every year in our state’s jails and prisons than are currently incarcerated. 

In addition to crime survivors, Proposition 20 is opposed by more than 100 leading labor, civil rights and business organizations including the California Teachers Association, Chicana Latina Foundation, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California Labor Federation, United Domestic Workers of America, California Correctional Peace Officers Association, California Fire Chiefs Association, United Way of California, Sierra Club, California Black Chamber of Commerce, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (CA) and the Chief Probation Officers of California, among others. 

“We cannot and must not turn back the clock,” the letter to the mayors reads. “We ask you to help us continue the progress we have made together in California by standing with us opposition to Proposition 20 and a return to the failed policies of the past.” 

A recording of today’s press conference announcing the letter and featuring survivors and some of the state’s leading district attorneys and other law enforcement officials is available here.