On Nov. 4, Californians voted to pass Proposition 47, which reduces prison sentences for individuals who commit particular nonserious drug and property crimes, by a margin of 58.8 percent to 41.2 percent.
The ballot measure’s passage was well-received by University of California Student Association’s leadership which has worked to pass legislation that reallocates funds from the prison system to education since the October 2013 launch of the Invest in Graduation Not Incarceration campaign.
The law is expected to generate between $750 million and $1.25 billion within the next five years to fund programs designed to keep offenders out of jail.
The UCSA IGNITE campaign aims to reduce state spending on prisons and increase funding for education. The savings from the reduced prison population expected after Proposition 47’s passage will be utilized to fund programs including school truancy prevention programs and mental health and drug treatment programs.
A.S. Vice President of External Affairs Allyson Osorio discussed how the proposition supports UCSA goals.
“UCSA has worked hard to change the state’s sentencing on drug crimes that often victimizes minority and low-income populations,” Osorio told the UCSD Guardian. “For common sense drug sentencing, we endorse[d] Prop 47.”
In addition, Osorio said that, even though the law does not directly affect higher education, the discriminatory nature of the prison system is experienced throughout the UC system.
“A lot of the people affected by the prison system aren’t making [it] into the UCs,” said Osorio. “Obviously anything that affects K-12 education affects the UC and vice versa. Low numbers of black and Latino students aren’t reflective of the demographics in California because there [are funds] being funneled into prisons instead of K-12.”
The IGNITE campaign was started in October 2013 with the purpose of obtaining funding for the UC system by passing legislation that reduces the amount of money spent on prisons and re-allocating it to education. IGNITE supports several other prison reduction bills including California Assembly Bill 420, a bill aimed at reducing the number of students that go to prison by banning suspensions and expulsions on the basis of “willful defiance.”
Furthermore, the campaign is looking to attain $10 million of unrestricted funds from the University of California Office of the President to appropriate to student recruitment and retention centers at underprivileged high schools in order provide students with the resources necessary to pursue higher education.