Teach-In Guide for CA State Propositions 57 & 58

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Proposition 57 Explainer

  • Proposition 57 would expand the number of inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes eligible for parole. By one estimate, it would affect 25,000 incarcerated people.
  • Voting yes for 57 would also institute a system for inmates to earn positive points for good behavior and completing rehabilitation and educational programs while in prison, using prison time as an opportunity for rehabilitation rather than merely a holding cell. Rehabilitation programs are proven to reduce recidivism.
  • Opponents to 57 claim that violent criminals will be released from prison, but remember that eligibility for parole does not guarantee parole. Inmates must show evidence that they are not a danger to society in order to achieve early release. There is an extensive process that allows testimony from the prosecutor, victims and their family members, and approval by the governor.
  • Mass incarceration in California is a racial justice issue. Black and Latino males are disproportionately represented in the prison system, undermining family and community structures, as well as their future prospects for employment. Those with felony convictions in prison cannot vote, so mass incarceration is a democratic issue as well.
  • Prop 57 would also transfer the power to decide whether a youth under 18 will be tried as an adult or a juvenile from a prosecutor to a judge. Judges are positioned to be less biased arbiters and will have a set of criteria guiding their decision. Prosecutors, on the other hand, are positioned to be as adversarial and to pursue the most punitive outcome as possible. Blacks and Latinos receive harsher punishments for the same infractions in comparison to whites, and any reform to make sentencing less biased promotes racial justice.
  • For more information on the racial disproportionality in mass incarceration, read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

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Proposition 58 Explainer

  • More than 1 in 5 K-12 students in California are English Learners. Over 40% of K-12 students in California speak a language other than English in their homes.
  • In 1998 California voters passed Proposition 227, which effectively eliminated most bilingual education programs in the state. Prop 227 required “limited English proficient” students to be taught nearly all in English. Parents had to sign a waiver for their child to receive bilingual education.
  • Prop 58 would overturn 227 and eliminate obstacles to bilingual education, which research has repeatedly shown is the most effective approach to develop proficiency in both languages. Moreover, bilingual education provides the opportunity for English-speaking students to learn a second language, which is an important recognition of the diversity that characterizes our communities and a valuable asset in today’s global society.
  • The academic performance of English learner students lags far behind that of non-English learners. Yes on Prop 58 would allow educators access to more tools, such as native language instruction, to help them catch up. By learning content in their first language (or with support in their first language) as they concurrently develop proficiency in English, English learners will not fall behind.
  • English-only regulations marginalize large sections of the population. Treating non-English languages as valuable commodities that should be encouraged rather than banned is likely to help the self-esteem of students whose families speak those languages.
  • Passage of Proposition 58 could mark a historic turning point in California away from an anti-immigrant stance and toward acceptance of multicultural diversity.

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