In a surprise move, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen has taken a position on controversial Proposition 47, a measure that reclassifies some felonies as misdemeanors for certain non-violent crimes.
“I've decided to support Proposition 47,” Rosen said. In an exclusive interview with NBC Bay Area, Rosen said Friday that Proposition 47 would reduce prison overcrowding by sending drug addicts to treatment instead of prison.
“I want to make sure we have room in prison for serious violent offenders,” Rosen said.
Bob Cooke, a member of the California Narcotic Officers Association, spent his career putting criminals behind bars and was surprised by Rosen’s announcement.
"All people in prison for simple possession, they're in there because they earned the right to be there,” Cooke said. “They plea bargained their way from a more serious violent crime.”
Cooke said he worries about public safety if Prop 47 passes.
“I don’t think allowing 10,000 prisoners out of prison, where they belong, is safe," Cooke said.
Cooke said the threat of a felony charge serves as a big deterrent for potential criminals, but Rosen said it’s time to reinvest, especially after California has built 20 prisons since 1980, and only two state universities.
California’s independent legislative analyst estimates Prop 47 would save the state between $150 million and $250 million per year.
Prop 47 is also endorsed by former San Jose police chief Bill Lansdowne and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.