Drug Arrests Before and After Prop 47

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Two graphs showing total drug arrests and felony drug arrests before and after Proposition 47

In 2014, Californians passed Proposition 47, a ballot initiative that reduced certain drug-related felonies to misdemeanors. Prop 47 also focused money and resources on more serious offenses while investing the savings into treatment for substance use disorders.

Alyssa Mooney and colleagues used data from the California Department of Justice’s Monthly Arrests and Citations Register and the American Community Survey to look at both total drug-related arrests and differences due to race and ethnicity on drug-related arrests before and after the passage of Prop 47.

The figure above shows both total drug arrests (left graph) and felony drug arrests (right graph) in California before and after Prop 47 was implemented. The dashed lines show expected arrest rates if Prop 47 had not passed.

There was an immediate drop in felony arrests after Prop 47 passage. Black individuals did not gain the full benefit of the felony to misdemeanor change because certain drug offenses, such as drug selling, were not reclassified, disproportionately affecting this group.

Graphs from “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Arrests for Drug Possession After California Proposition 47, 2011–2016”
Alyssa C. Mooney, Eric Giannella, M. Maria Glymour, Torsten B. Neilands, Meghan D. Morris, Jacqueline Tulsky, and May Sudhinaraset, Am J Public Health. 2018;108:987– 993. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304445

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