San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr is letting officers know Proposition 47 changed the rules in California.
Some drug possession- and theft-related crimes that were once considered felonies are now misdemeanors under the new measure approved by state voters on Tuesday.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon helped write Prop 47. He said California is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars incarcerating people with drug addiction and mental illness -- and when they are released they re-offend.
"Six out of 10 times we put someone in prison they go back to prison in three years because we are not dealing with the root cause of the problem in the first place," Gascon said.
Gascon said Prop 47 reduces the penalty for things like shop lifting and possession of heroin to a year in jail. But it also gives them a new option: treatment.
"You try to craft a settlement that puts them into treatment early on, split the sentence or use other tools," Gascon said.
But Suhr said Prop 47 removes an effective tool.
"I'm concerned the unintended consequence is we will not be able to leverage people into the help they desperately need," Suhr said.
Thousands of people serving prison time for crimes that are now a misdemeanor are expected to file for a reduced charge under the new law.