Liberty and Justice for All: Vote YES on 47!


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I’m writing this piece to congratulate YOU on being part of the forward march of American progress, an integral part of Martin Luther King’s long “moral arc of history” which “bends toward justice.”  Like the man said, he “may not get there with us,” but here we are, getting a little closer.

Since Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1971, this great nation has become more and more of a police state, keeping more of its citizens incarcerated than any other nation on earth, often for the pettiest things.  And given the timing of that declaration, and the totally biased, racist way this War has been conducted, it’s fair to say it was an equal-and-opposite reaction to the Civil Rights victories under Nixon’s predecessors Kennedy and Johnson.  And this Prop 47 will be one of the first and biggest pullbacks of this War.

Maybe the biggest.  Remember, as California goes so goes the nation eventually – on nearly every gauge of progress.  With low-level non-violent crimes being re-classified, we estimate 10,000 people who don’t need to be in jail or prison, who should be out contributing to the economy and supporting their families, will go free.  The estimate I HAVEN’T seen, that I’m still looking for, is how many folks who are ALREADY free but with a felony on their record, will become free of THAT, will be able to apply for jobs, school, etc, without having a red F on their forehead?  And how much will THAT add to our economy?

And it’s also exciting that this is WE THE PEOPLE doing what not enough of our political representatives have the spine to do, in both Parties’ terror of the gargantuan political power of  police and prison guard unions, which during this long fruitless war that enriches them so mightily, have become a lobbying powerhouse as fearsome as the NRA or AIPAC.    In the 43 years of this Long Fruitless War, California has built TWENTY new prisons and only TWO new universities.  Let’s make sure the passage of Prop 47 is the beginning of the reversal of THOSE messed-up priorities.


In case you missed it, this initiative, in the words of its backers, will:

  • Improve public safety.
  • Reduce prison spending and government waste.
  • Dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars to K–12 schools, crime victim assistance, mental health treatment and drug treatment.

“Proposition 47 is sensible. It focuses law enforcement dollars on violent and serious crime while providing new funding for education and crime prevention programs that will make us all safer.

“Here’s how Proposition 47 works:

  • Prioritizes Serious and Violent Crime: Stops wasting prison space on petty crimes and focuses law enforcement resources on violent and serious crime by changing low-level nonviolent crimes such as simple drug possession and petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors.
  • Keeps Dangerous Criminals Locked Up: Authorizes felonies for registered sex offenders and anyone with a prior conviction for rape, murder or child molestation.
  • Saves Hundreds of Millions of Dollars: Stops wasting money on warehousing people in prisons for nonviolent petty crimes, saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds every year.
  • Funds Schools and Crime Prevention: Dedicates the massive savings to crime prevention strategies in K—12 schools, assistance for victims of crime, and mental health treatment and drug treatment to stop the cycle of crime.”

Oh – why am I congratulating YOU specifically?

I suppose I’m taking a chance there, but not TOO big of one.  I’m congratulating you for being part of this noble revolution, because I see that it’s leading very handily in the polls, so there’s a good chance – a 2/3 chance – that the person reading this story IS going to vote YES on 47.  But in case you’re not sure, think about being on the right side of history and do a little research.

That’ll also be a historic shift, for California voters (on a non-Presidential year!) to come out on the side of liberty and justice over an ever-expanding Prison Industrial Complex.  This has not been the case for decades –  we Golden State voters have been as bad as our lawmakers.  I’m guessing the fact that Prop 47 will probably pass, as will marijuana legalization, as would gay marriage, is that our voting ranks are being slowly filled with younger, wiser folks, as our vindictive, terrified, racist forbears shuffle regularly off this mortal coil.

Oy!  That’s not a positive way to wrap things up!  Vote YES on 47, brothers and sisters!


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.