Proposition 20: Criminal justice reform

Criminal sentencing, parole and DNA collection initiative

Proposition 20

Christina Painton

Prop 20 limits access to paroled programs for certain offenses currently considered to be non-violent. Canva graphic by Christina Painton

Christina Painton, Staff Writer

The gist

Proposition 20 repeals certain criminal justice reforms voted on in 2014 and 2016 designed to reduce the prison population in California. It would allow a third misdemeanor theft to get raised to felony, expand DNA collection requirements to include some misdemeanor crimes, increase penalties for frequent parole violations and remove eligibility of early release for certain violent offenders.

The fiscal impact includes a likely increase in annual state and local corrections costs in the tens of millions due to higher local jail populations and supervision. It would also create annual increases in state and local court costs up to millions of dollars. Additionally, it would elevate state and local law enforcement costs annually to handle DNA collection and processing not to exceed a few million dollars.

Supporters say it would increase the severity of penalties for 22 violent crimes categorized as non-violent by state law. It disqualifies offenders of subsequent crimes classified as non-violent from early release. It also requires those offenders to serve full sentences and requires notification to victims when offenders are released.

It requires DNA collection for theft and drug offenses. Data suggests DNA from certain misdemeanor offenders helps solve more violent crimes such as rape, robbery and murder.

Opponents say California already has strict and lengthy punishments for serious and violent offenders. The state has had to face large budget cuts for critical services and organizations like schools and healthcare. Prop 20 would allocate tens of millions of additional dollars to corrections.

What the media is saying

Endorsement: Yes on Prop. 20: California’s crime reforms need reform, The San Diego Union-Tribune (article)
Endorsement: No on Prop. 20. no on rolling back critical justice reforms, Los Angeles Times,  (article)
Proposition 20: Criminal Sentencing and Parole, Bay Curious from KQED (podcast)


• Republican Party of California
• Orange County Board of Supervisors
• Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs
• Los Angeles Police Protective League
• Peace Officers Research Association of California


• Former Gov. Jerry Brown
• California Labor Federation
California Teachers Association
• ACLU of California
• ACLU of Southern California
• California League of Conservation Voters
• California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
• Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice
• League of Women Voters of California

For more information about Prop 20, go to

Christina Painton is also Executive Producer for Newscene, San Diego City College’s broadcast news program. Check out the latest episode on YouTube, @sdcitynewscene.