Law enforcement officials throughout the state are trying to determine how the passage of Proposition 47 will impact the community, especially since jails have been ordered to release eligible inmates immediately.
However, the legitimate fear is that it's bound to wreak havoc on public safety.
The nuts and bolts of Prop. 47
The goal of the ballot measure was to free up bed space in California jails. The proposition, now law reduces sentencing requirements for theft, shoplifting, drug possession and forgery by reclassifying these offenses from felony to misdemeanor crimes.
Anyone who has been convicted of this type of crime who is currently convicted, is eligible to be re-sentenced under the new guidelines.
A spokesperson for the Sacramento County Jail said they expect up to 400 pre-trial inmates to be released now that Prop 47 has been approved by voters. State prison officials say they are also expecting to receive piles of petitions from those who feel they should qualify for early release.
The authors of the ballot measure say the benefits to this are twofold; the state may save hundreds of millions of dollars and it will help address the issue of inmate overcrowding.
Experts say it will be several years before the state sees any real savings and have pointed out the dollars-and-cents of the matter may not be as high as estimated.
The immediate ripple effect
A number of law enforcement agencies have already started to change their arrest policies. The Fresno Sheriff's Department, for example, have been told to issue "cite out" tickets to persons who have been accused of a non-violent, low-level offense.
Someone who has been found with a "personal-use" amount of narcotics who would have previously been arrested and booked on felony charges, will not get a "ticket" with a date and time to appear. Other counties have issued similar orders.
Judges and prosecutors say they also expect to see an immediate trickle-down effect because those responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor crimes will see a relative spike in their case load.
The District Attorney's office is generally responsible for handling felonies, while the City Attorney handles misdemeanors. Both San Diego and Los Angeles City Attorney representatives say they are already looking to bring on more staff.
Sheriff's officials continue to express concern that low-level criminals won't take advantage of rehabilitation programs and that the mass-release of inmates, compounded with the reduced sentencing guidelines, could lead to a spike in California crime.
Read the full story here: Dozens of prisoners freed from Sacramento County Jail days after voters approve Proposition 47