Will California’s Prison Policy Changes Spread to Other States?

Sholonda Jackson has been circling downtown San Francisco in search of a parking place for more than an hour, but her tone is still upbeat as she talks about the day’s errand – filing out the paperwork to get the last of her three felony convictions reduced to a misdemeanor. Addicted to drugs since her mother first handed her a crack pipe when Jackson was a teenager, Jackson has been clean now for 11 years.

A devoted wife and mother who works for an organization that supports homeless veterans and volunteers in her spare time, Jackson has her bachelor’s degree and plans to earn her master’s. But today, her top priority is shedding the “felon” label, and everything it carries, once and for all.

Jackson’s destination is the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, where she can get help with modifying her record under California’s Proposition 47. Passed in November 2014, Prop. 47, as it’s known, reclassifies certain low-level drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Its passage meant early release for thousands of prisoners and kept thousands more from going to prison in the first place. For those like Jackson, who have already done their time, it offers the elusive prospect of a fresh start.

– Truth Out

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