California measure reducing sentences for nonviolent crimes heads to ballot

SACRAMENTO Calif. Fri Jun 27, 2014 11:29am EDT

Prisoners play table tennis in the exercise yard at San Quentin state prison in San Quentin, California, June 8, 2012.  Picture taken June 8, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Prisoners play table tennis in the exercise yard at San Quentin state prison in San Quentin, California, June 8, 2012. Picture taken June 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - A ballot initiative aimed at reducing prison sentences for people who commit nonviolent crimes including drug possession and petty theft will go before California voters in November, the state said Thursday.

The measure would reduce such crimes to misdemeanors, unless the defendant has prior convictions for violent or serious crimes, according to the text of the initiative, posted on the website of the California Secretary of State.

Supporters say the proposition would save up to $250 million per year in incarceration costs. The ballot initiative would pass that money on to schools, victim services and mental health and drug treatment.

Backers include San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and former San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein)

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