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Prop 47: We support it, but it’s complicated …

November 3, 2014

by Dorsey Nunn

You may be aware of California’s ballot initiative Prop 47, which would reduce six crimes that could be charged as felonies to misdemeanors and prevent thousands of people from being incarcerated. Prop 47 represents an important opportunity to push back on overcharging people for crimes that leads to mass incarceration.

Dorsey Nunn speaks at the launch of the Formerly Incarcerated People’s Policy Academy in Los Angeles in December 2013. – Photo: Charles Dodds, Urban Guerilla Media

Dorsey Nunn speaks at the launch of the Formerly Incarcerated People’s Policy Academy in Los Angeles in December 2013. – Photo: Charles Dodds, Urban Guerilla Media

All of Us or None will continue to loudly demand an end to overcharging and for the freedom of our people. However, I need to state that this proposition has proven to be complicated for us. I am writing to share with you our perspective on the opportunities and challenges represented by Prop 47.

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None support Prop 47. We worked tirelessly collecting signatures to qualify it for the ballot. All of Us or None is particularly engaged in regions that prove most challenging to changes in the criminal justice system.

Prop 47 rightly reduces these wobblers to misdemeanors because people should not be caged for minor survival acts or medicating themselves. However, the proposition explicitly excludes people with convictions for violence, posing a challenge to organizing the full body of our community. It does not shift the paradigm, and law enforcement, conservatives, as well as liberals, will continue using old and unchallenged arguments to imprison and kill us.

Prop 47 frees some of us while at the same time arguing others should or will not be considered for fundamental relief. It puts us in the position of having to choose between our loved ones. Creating an artificial dividing line for sentencing reform reinforces the idea that certain people with convictions are deserving of justice, while others are beyond redemption. All of Us or None was created to fight for the full restoration of the civil and human rights of ALL incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None support Prop 47.

We need to be honest about violence. We know that people are afraid and their fears are often exploited. It takes a society to raise a child to become a violent person. Violent social practices, both historical and present-day, have a major influence on the past and present violence in the lives of currently and formerly incarcerated people and our families. It takes collective social responsibility to stop violence and to raise our next generations of people free from the systemic and interpersonal cycles of violence.

The proposition explicitly excludes people with convictions for violence, posing a challenge to organizing the full body of our community. It does not shift the paradigm, and law enforcement, conservatives, as well as liberals, will continue using old and unchallenged arguments to imprison and kill us.

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None want our families, friends and neighbors free. We are committed to freeing whoever we can now and we will continue to fight to free more whenever we can.

However, we must point out that the language and practice of separating us presents real challenges. It suggests that not all lives are important and perpetuates thinking that enables mass incarceration. We hope to engage in a robust discussion about these issues at the conclusion of this election cycle.

Once again, our commitment is to freeing our people and Proposition 47 is one step in that direction.

Our commitment is to freeing our people and Proposition 47 is one step in that direction.

Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, can be reached at dorsey@prisonerswithchildren.org. He is writing this commentary on behalf of All of Us or None and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

6 thoughts on “Prop 47: We support it, but it’s complicated …

  1. Axle Foley

    You are a dumb, irresponsible, selfish moron. I hope they imprison you for supporting violence by way I’d empathizing with it. You just effectively turned me un-liberal.

    Reply

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