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Voters have chance to lower prison, court spending, reports say

Prison yard

Two proposals on the November ballot could help reduce spending on prisons and courts by about $200 million a year, according to reports released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

The first initiative, known as Proposition 34, would eliminate the death penalty in California. That would cut costs for murder trials, lengthy legal appeals and local jails, the Legislative Analyst's Office said. Annual savings could start at $100 million and reach $130 million in a few years.

There is some additional spending in the initiative, however. The state would be required to dish out grants to local law enforcement totaling $100 million over four years.

The second initiative, Proposition 36, would loosen California's three-strikes law. If it is approved by voters, criminals would not face the same steep prison sentences unless their third felony is considered violent or serious, such as robbery or some assaults.

The initiative could also allow some inmates out of prison sooner if they're serving life sentences for a third strike that is nonviolent and non-serious, such as theft or drug possession.

The Legislative Analyst's Office said annual savings could start at $70 million and eventually increase to $90 million.

The office warned, however, that there could be a few million dollars in additional costs as inmates file to have their sentences reconsidered, increasing court caseloads and making new work for prosecutors and public defenders.

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 -- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
twitter.com/chrismegerian

Photo: Inmates in a recreation yard at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, Calif., earlier this year. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

 
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