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Election 2020

California Elections 2020: Proposition 20 - Criminal Sentencing

What Would This Ballot Initiative Change About Criminal Sentencing and Supervision Policies in California?

The ballot initiative would amend several criminal sentencing and supervision laws that were passed between 2011 and 2016.[1]

The ballot initiative would make specific types of theft and fraud crimes, including firearm theft, vehicle theft, and unlawful use of a credit card, chargeable as misdemeanors or felonies, rather than misdemeanors. The ballot initiative would also establish two additional types of crimes in state code—serial crime and organized retail crime—and charge them as wobblers (crimes chargeable as misdemeanors or felonies).[1]

The ballot initiative would require persons convicted of certain misdemeanors that were classified as wobblers or felonies before 2014, such shoplifting, grand theft, and drug possession, along with several other crimes, including domestic violence and prostitution with a minor, to submit to the collection of DNA samples for state and federal databases.[1]

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) has a parole review program in which felons convicted of nonviolent crimes, as defined in law, could be released on parole upon completing their sentence for his or her offense with the longest imprisonment term. The ballot initiative would require the parole review board to consider additional factors, such as the felon's age, marketable skills, attitude about the crime, and mental condition, as well as the circumstances of the crimes committed, before deciding whether to release a felon on parole. The ballot initiative would allow prosecutors to request a review of the board's final decision. The ballot initiative would also define 51 crimes and sentence enhancements as violent in order to exclude them from the parole review program.[1]

In California, counties are responsible for supervising paroled felons convicted of non-serious and non-violent crimes, as defined in law, and who were not classified as high-risk sex offenders nor classified as needing treatment from the state Department of Mental Health. Counties have discretion on whether to petition the judicial system to change a felon's post-release supervision terms or status. The ballot initiative would require local probation departments to ask a judge to change the conditions or status of a felon's post-release supervision if the felon violated supervision terms for the third time.[1]

What Existing Laws Would This Ballot Initiative Change?

The ballot initiative was designed to make changes to AB 109 (2011), Proposition 47 (2014), and Proposition 57 (2016)—three measures that were each intended to reduce the state’s prison inmate population. According to Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-9), the goal of the initiative is to "[reform] the unintended consequences of reforms to better protect the public."[2] Former Gov. Jerry Brown (D) disagreed with Cooper's assessment, saying the initiative is the "latest scare tactic on criminal justice reform."[3]

Before Proposition 47 and Proposition 57, and a month after the passage of AB 109, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that overcrowding in the state's prisons resulted in cruel and unusual punishment and affirmed a lower court's order to reduce the prison population. AB 109 shifted the imprisonment of non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenders, as defined in state law, from state prisons to local jails. AB 109 also made counties, rather than the state, responsible for supervising certain felons on parole. Proposition 47, which voters approved in 2014, changed several crimes, which the measure considered non-serious and non-violent, from felonies or wobblers to misdemeanors. Former Gov. Brown (D) developed Proposition 57, which voters approved in 2016. Proposition 57 increased parole chances for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes, as defined in state law, and gave them more opportunities to earn sentence-reduction credits for good behavior.

The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, described AB 109 and Propositions 47 and 57 as successful sentencing reforms that reduced overcrowding in state prisons.[4] Andrew Do, chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, described the measures as "California’s dangerous trifecta."[5]

Official Ballot Arguments In Favor of Proposition 20

Proposition 20 prevents the early release of violent offenders and sexual predators by making these 22 violent crimes“violent” under the law, and requires that victims be notified when their assailants are set free.

Proposition 20’s “full sentence” provision applies only to violent inmates who pose a risk to public safety, regardless of race or ethnicity. It does not apply to drug offenders and petty criminals, and does not send more people to prison.

See all the arguments in favor of Proposition 20 here.

Official Ballot Arguments Against  Proposition 20

Prop. 20 Is extreme. Prop 20 means that theft over $250 could be charged as a felony. That’s extreme, out of line with other states, and means more teenagers and Black, Latino and low income people could be locked up for years for low-level, non-violent crimes.

Prop 20 cuts the use of rehabilitation- making us less safe. Rehabilitation is a proven strategy to reduce repeat crime, so. people become law-abiding, productive, taxpaying citizens.Prop 20 could cut rehabilitation—meaning fewer people would be ready to re-enter society when they are released, which would harm public safety.

Official Websites for Proposition 20

Visit the official website for yes on Proposition 20 here:

Visit the official website for no on Proposition 20 here: not found

Who is Funding Proposition 20

Two PACs—Keep California Safe and Protecting California Cooper Ballot Measure Committee—were registered to support the ballot initiative. Together, the committees had raised $3.99 million, including $2.00 million from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association Truth in American Government Fund.

What is Proposition 20?

If approved, Proposition 20 will limit access to parole for non-violent offenders, change standards for parole, and authorize felony charges for specified crimes currently charged as misdemeanors. 

Who is Supporting Proposition 20?


Government Entities

  • Orange County Board of Supervisors


  • Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs
  • Los Angeles Police Protective League
  • Peace Officers Research Association of California


  • Albertsons Safeway

Patricia Wenskunas, founder of Crime Survivors, Inc. 

Nina Salarno Besselman, president of Crime Victims United of California 

Christine Ward, director of Crime Victims Alliance

Who is Opposing Proposition 20?

Former Officials


  • Patty Quillin - Philanthropist
  • Lynn Schusterman - Philanthropist



  • ACLU of Northern California

Diana Becton, district attorney in Contra Costa County 

Renee Williams, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime 

Tinisch Hollins, California director for the Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice

For more information, go to

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About the Author

IVN San Diego Staff

IVN San Diego Staff

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