Proposition 47

Pastor Mannie Brodie and volunteer Renea Wickman give Proposition 47 a “thumbs up.”

It has been six months since Proposition 47 was approved by California voters, and controversy over the ballot measure is continuing.

The law changed the classification of some low-level, non-violent crimes, such as drug possession and petty theft offenses, from potential felonies to misdemeanors.

According to Dr. Mannie Brodie, pastor of Principles of Faith Christian Center in Fontana, Prop. 47 is a "blessing."

The church held an expungement event on May 2 in which dozens of people came in to talk with public defenders about the possibility of having felonies (including some which occurred many years ago) purged from their record.

Brodie said this represents a major step forward for many people who now will be able to contribute positively to society instead of being turned away by potential employers.

"We want their record to be cleared so that they can get a job and support their families," he said.

When asked if Prop. 47 was working the way it was originally designed, Renea Wickman, a volunteer who helped coordinate the expungement session, said: "Absolutely. The only problem we're having is getting the word out there to people who need the help."

However, Rodney Jones, the Fontana Police Department chief, believes Prop. 47 is causing major problems.

He said that in 2013 and 2014, the crime rate was going down in Fontana until November of last year, but "every single month since then (after Prop. 47 went into effect), we have had an increase in both violent and property crime."

Jones said the measure was poorly written and creates some dangerous loopholes.

For example, he is troubled by the fact that Prop. 47 classifies the theft of a gun (as long as the firearm is valued at less than $950) as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

"Nobody steals a gun to go duck hunting," Jones said. "They're going to use it to do something bad."

Jones said that after the state's realignment program was implemented in 2011, the Fontana P.D. created the Fontana Re-entry Support Team (F.R.S.T.), which has helped many early-release prisoners, probationers, and persons on parole to receive job skills, training, and a variety of resources. He said F.R.S.T. has benefited people who voluntarily seek to turn their lives around, including trying to avoid drug offenses.

But now, he said, Prop. 47 is removing the threat of a felony conviction for drug possession and thereby letting loose too many people who do not want to change.

"Prop. 47 takes away the consequences," he said. "It treats someone who has been arrested 15 times for drug possession the same as a first-time offender who is just experimenting. We try to give people a chance, but we still need a place where, despite our best efforts, people who are a danger to society must be sent.”

Jones said that because of the recent crime increase in the city, he is proposing that additional officers be added to the force when the City Council looks at the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Principles of Faith Christian Center will be continuing to offer information to offenders who are eligible for reclassification of their convictions. Brodie and Wickman emphasized that these people must file for expungement within three years (by Nov. 5, 2017).

Offenses that fall under Prop. 47 include shoplifting, forgery, fraud/bad checks, grand theft, petty theft, and receiving stolen property, all involving $950 or less; possession of methamphetamine, possession of controlled substances, and possession of concentrated cannabis.

The church will be holding another Prop. 47 expungement event on Saturday, Aug. 8. Persons interested in receiving more information about the reclassification process can call Wickman at (909) 567-0222.

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