Proposition 47: The Aftermath

Proposition 47 is legislation recently passed in California that has sparked some controversy concerning its operations and efficacy. Although Proposition 47 was developed and launched with intended consequences, opponents claim that it is causing unintended consequences that are adverse in nature. None of these claims - intended and unintended - have been sufficiently substantiated by empirical evidence. This study examined the trends in four key areas - prison populations, drug treatment admissions, crime rates, and arrest rates - to test the claims about the unintended consequences of Prop 47. Prop 47's intended consequences are downward trends in prison populations, crime and arrests, and upward trends in drug treatment admissions. Its unintended consequences are trends that contrast or otherwise deviate from those of the intended consequences. Four years of data, two years prior to Prop 47 and two years after Prop 47, for all four areas were collected and analyzed. The results demonstrate that contrary to intended results, prison populations increased, drug treatment admissions decreased, crime rates increased, and arrest rates partially increased, showing support for the unintended consequences of Proposition 47. This study is one of the first empirical inquiries assessing the unintended consequences of Prop 47 and contributes to the general literature of public policy. As part of the analysis, limitations and suggestions for future research are addressed.