Some officials taking issue with new crime categories under Prop 47

San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer has expressed concerns that the voter-approved Proposition 47 removes incentives for criminals to participate in rehabilitation programs.

San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer has expressed concerns that the voter-approved Proposition 47 removes incentives for criminals to participate in rehabilitation programs.

Some law enforcement officials in San Mateo County are looking at ways to mitigate the uptick in crime they believe could result from the recent passage of Proposition 47.

That's the word from San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer, who said the new law makes it harder for authorities to intervene in the criminal careers of offenders and removes incentives for criminals to participate in rehabilitation programs.

Adopted by California voters in the Nov. 4 general election, Prop 47 requires misdemeanor sentences for certain drug and property crimes that were previously considered felonies. The law doesn't apply to sex offenders or persons with previous convictions for violent crimes or other serious offences.

Prop 47 is expected to save hundreds of millions of dollars on incarceration costs, supporters say, and it requires the state to spend that money on intervention and rehabilitation programs, along with services for crime victims.

Hundreds of county jail inmates around the state were reportedly released after the passage of Prop 47, and thousands more may now be eligible for resentencing.

One result of the proposition's language pertaining to drugs is that possessing date rape drugs is now a misdemeanor, according to Manheimer.

“To make date rape drugs a misdemeanor boggles the mind,” the chief said, “What compassionate person would say possession of date rape drugs should be a misdemeanor?”

Prop 47 deprives law enforcement of tools for rehabilitating low-level offenders, Manheimer said, because somebody facing a misdemeanor charge and no jail time will likely not be easily compelled to enter programs designed to prevent recidivism.

Proposition 47 supporter Marina Bell argues that the U.S. criminal justice system has failed to achieve low recidivism rates, and the new law will reduce recidivism by keeping first-time offenders out of overcrowded prisons, where she said the “horrific” conditions are rarely conducive to rehabilitation.

“The best way to create a career criminal is to send a first-time, low-level offender to prison,” Bell said.

A doctoral student currently working toward a criminology degree, Bell has experience working with career criminals at San Quentin State Prison, where she's taught college-level classes and volunteered as a counselor for the California Reentry Program.

Although Bell and Manheimer are on opposite sides of the Prop 47 debate, they have some points of common ground. When asked what advice Bell would give Manheimer to reduce recidivism, the criminologist emphasized the importance of making sure police officers are better informed about resources that can help citizens who are at risk of re-offending.

Manheimer already advocates arming police officers with the ability to connect citizens in crisis to the resources they need, and says police are often the public's first point of contact with the county's social safety net.

Bell also stressed the importance of accurately evaluating arrest reports so police have good data on who is committing specific crimes and why. “If you reach out to the wrong population or offer the wrong services, that makes no sense,” Bell noted.

Bay Area NewsPeninsulaProposition 47San Mateo CountySan Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

District Attorney Chesa Boudin announces charges against former SFPD Officer Christopher Samoyoa in the 2017 fatal shooting of Keita O’Neill at a press conference outside the Hall of Justice on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
DA Boudin charges fired SFPD officer with manslaughter over fatal shooting

Ex-Officer Christopher Samayoa to face criminal charges in killing of Keita O’Neil

The area near the Castro Muni Metro Station is expected to be affected by construction work on the Twin Peaks Tunnel, with lane closures on Market Street and some loss of parking. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Construction on Twin Peaks Tunnel to begin November 30

Area around Castro Muni Station will see greatest impacts including lane closures on Market Street

(Genaro Molina/Pool/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Newsom calls latest surge of COVID-19 cases ‘unprecendented’

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation California’s latest surge of COVID-19… Continue reading

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, during a news conference on March 10, 2020. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
LA County suspends outdoor dining at restaurants as coronavirus surges

By Alex Wigglesworth Los Angeles Times Los Angeles County public health officials… Continue reading

Renderings of the main entrance to upcoming Mission Bay elementary school on Owens Street. (Courtesy photo)
SFUSD offers first look at planned Mission Bay elementary school

San Francisco school officials this month unveiled the design of a planned… Continue reading

Most Read