ACLU to Gov. Brown: Felony for possession – Are you high?


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From our friends at the American Civil Liberties Union today:

Balance the Budget and Our Priorities.

Dear ACLU Friend:

Something is out of balance. And I’m not just talking about the state budget. I’m talking about our priorities. And the scales of justice.

As we watch the state budget crisis deepen, one of the most wasteful and harmful policies of our state government — felony sentences for simple drug possession — remains in place. Which leads Californians to ask their legislators the question: Are you high?

A few weeks ago, we wrote to you about this issue. Many of you responded by contacting the Governor and your legislators. I thank you.

As the budget crisis intensifies even further, we are stepping things up.

I’m writing to ask you to urge Gov. Brown to include in his May revise budget simple sentencing reforms that would save California taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually:

  1. Make possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Keeping 9,000 people locked up on that charge is costing taxpayers like you and me $450 million per year.
  2. Make low level non-violent property offenses — like vandalism or forgery — a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

You may have heard about the Governor’s realignment plan. These two reforms will make the realignment plan less costly while promoting public safety and increasing fairness in sentencing.

I also want you to know of the other steps we are taking to make sure these solutions are part of the debate. We have just:

  • Partnered with the Drug Policy Alliance and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights to commission and release a poll that shows that 72% of California voters support reducing drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.
  • Launched a billboard campaign in Los Angeles and San Francisco to challenge felony sentences for low-level offenses.
  • Kicked off a statewide tour to mobilize community groups and students, enlist local government leaders and inform editorial boards.

At this juncture in California’s history, we cannot, in good conscience, waste dollars that would be better invested in drug treatment, social services, public schools and universities.

Let’s balance the scales of justice — and our priorities — as we balance the budget.

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Thank you for all that you do,

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Hector O. Villagra,
Executive Director


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