Resource Development Associates

Realizing the Promise of Prop 47 Community Justice Reinvestment

By Debbie Mayer, MPP

Approved by California voters in November 2014, Proposition (Prop) 47 reclassified certain nonviolent, non-serious drug and property felonies to misdemeanors and generated millions of dollars in state savings. California allocates over half of these savings for mental health and substance use services through a competitive grant program administered by the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC). In this spirit, Prop 47 is a form of justice reinvestment: it decreases criminal justice spending and uses the savings to fund community-based programs.

In 2017, the BSCC approved $103 million in Prop 47 funding for 23 local public agencies to implement behavioral health and diversion programs. Each agency is required to pass through at least 50% of its funding to community-based organizations (CBOs), thereby ensuring programs rely on community partnership and collaboration. Local agencies’ proposals for the second round of Prop 47 funding—which will total $96 million—are due March 18.

Prop 47’s focus on community-based services offers an exciting opportunity for public agencies to develop and strengthen their partnerships with CBOs. Through RDA’s strategic planning and evaluation work, including two evaluations of Prop 47-funded programs, we know that effective collaboration requires thoughtful consideration and planning. To foster strategic and meaningful engagement with community organizations, we recommend that public agencies:

  1. Build on existing community resources. Conduct a landscape analysis of existing community-based providers and their capacity, services offered, and resources. Ideally, new work will supplement and strengthen existing capacities to fill in gaps in community services and supports.
  2. Conduct meaningful community outreach. All public agencies must establish a Local Advisory Committee (LAC) to guide and oversee Prop 47 implementation. The LAC should reflect the range of stakeholders involved in implementation and impacted by the proposed program. A landscape analysis will help identify which CBO stakeholders should be at the table and holding LAC meetings at accessible times and locations will facilitate community stakeholder engagement.
  3. Address CBO procurement and contracting barriers. Stringent requirements and lengthy processes can create barriers for CBOs to contract with public agencies. To mitigate these barriers, public agencies should review their processes to ensure each step and requirement is necessary and user-friendly. Additionally, public agencies can provide technical assistance to increase CBOs’ capacity to bid on and deliver services.
  4. Measure success beyond recidivism. As described in a previous RDA blog post, counties should examine a comprehensive set of outcome measures directly related to the services they provide to gain a comprehensive understanding of program impact.

If you are interested in learning more about how RDA can support Prop 47 planning, implementation, and evaluation, please contact David Onek, RDA’s Justice Practice Director, at or 510-488-3820.

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