Thousands of SF felony cases under Prop. 47 reduction review

Thousands of felony cases are under review in San Francisco for possible sentence reductions following the passage of November's statewide ballot measure that reclassified low-level offenses like drug possession or burglary as misdemeanors.

The passage of Proposition 47, which was championed by District Attorney George Gascón, is intended to reduce the jail population and promote restorative justice. In San Francisco, it costs $158 to hold each inmate per day, according to the City Controller's Office.

Possession of drugs like marijuana, cocaine or heroin, and stealing items from people or businesses valued at under $950 have become misdemeanor offenses under Prop. 47, which was passed by nearly 60 percent of voters. The impact may be limited in San Francisco, a city that prides itself on promoting alternatives to drug felonies such as a drug court and restorative justice programs, but hundreds of current cases have come under review and the law also applies to past convictions. Those with violent criminal histories are not eligible for Prop. 47 reductions.

The Adult Probation Department has identified 888 probationers, of which 293 had felony drug possession charges, who were possibly eligible for resentencing under Prop. 47. After further review 650 were considered ineligible, but 238 cases, of which 157 are drug possession felony cases, were recommended for a reduction in charges, said Martin Krizay, chief deputy adult probation officer. To date, Krizay said 102 people under the department's supervision have received a sentencing reduction, of which 53 had their probation dropped.

Cristine DeBerry, Gascón's chief of staff, said 375 open felony cases have been reduced to misdemeanor charges. She noted that six inmates were potentially eligible in state prison, but upon further review only four turned out to be eligible for release, and there were 14 inmates eligible in County Jail.

Public Defender Armando Miranda said that the Public Defender's Office is “conducting further research to determine how many people — because this is retroactive — may benefit from Proposition 47.” One former client, he said, recently requested the elimination of a mid-1980s drug possession conviction to help land a job.

“There are going to be many of these old convictions coming to our attention,” Miranda said, adding that “we have filed hundreds of petitions already so that these people get relief.”

Miranda noted that since 2003, the public defender has represented 128,000 mostly nonviolent felony cases and that the San Francisco Superior Court has identified 6,900 potential cases that might be eligible for reductions.

The agencies presented the data during Thursday's Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee hearing requested by Supervisor Malia Cohen.

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