47 inmates have been released in El Dorado County under Prop. 47 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

47 inmates have been released in El Dorado County under Prop. 47

Griffin Rogers

Forty-seven El Dorado County inmates have been released from jail so far under a new state law the majority of locals voted against in November.

Proposition 47, which reduced certain drug and theft-related offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, passed with nearly 60 percent support in California. It was opposed by about 51 percent of voters in El Dorado County.

Since then, county prosecutors have been busy handling dozens of petitions from felons wishing to reduce their sentences and convictions. About 155 cases have been reduced in El Dorado County so far, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Some of those requests have resulted in inmates being released from jail or receiving shorter sentences, while others have ended with either current or former inmates receiving misdemeanors in place of more serious convictions.

But how does this affect El Dorado County? According to sources, it could be awhile until anybody really finds out, although some of the impacts are beginning to surface.

For instance, workload at the county DA’s office has risen significantly since the implementation of Proposition 47, Chief Assistant DA William Clark said. The office some weeks has received up to 25 petitions for resentencing, which take time to process, as each is handled on a case-by-case basis.

Furthermore, Clark has noticed fewer people entering drug rehabilitation programs now that treatment for the same offenses is no longer mandatory, he said.

“There’s no incentive to go,” he said. “Believing that (offenders) are receiving treatment is not at all true in any county I know of unless they really, really want it.”

Lt. Tom Murdoch, of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, said the county’s drug rehabilitation program has “pretty much gone by the wayside” since Proposition 47’s passage.

Before November, those who were busted with drugs were sent to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and required to undergo drug testing. Not anymore, he said.

“They said I don’t have to do this crap anymore and out the door they went,” Murdoch said.

The new law does set aside funding for treatment programs. However, without the requirement of cleaning themselves up, many offenders have fallen back to using drugs again, he added.

It’s unknown at this time what kind of an impact that will have on the local community — or if it has any connection with a spike in property thefts since November — but Murdoch noted drugs and theft are often related.

“We’re dealing with some of those things,” he said, “but we won’t know if that’s the norm for quite some time.”

That shroud of mystery exists at the South Lake Tahoe jail as well, where Correctional Lt. Jonathan Eslick reported a significant drop in the inmate population in the months following November.

“Right before Prop. 47 we were almost at capacity,” Eslick said. “Then we dropped significantly, and now we are in a position where we have plenty of beds.”

Capacity at the jail is slightly below 158 beds, since some inmates receive their own two-bed rooms. But as of Monday, the jail was housing 111 inmates.

Only one of the 47 county inmates released under Proposition 47 was freed from the South Lake Tahoe jail, according to Eslick’s data. The law could have affected more than that since inmates are frequently transferred between Placerville and South Lake Tahoe, but again, it’s unknown whether the drop in population is directly tied to Proposition 47, he said.

As in the rest of the county, time will tell.

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