Vote Yes on Proposition 47, "Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties."
California Proposition 47 changes several crimes that are now felonies to misdemeanors. In cases of theft, shoplifting, and forged or bad checks it simply clearly sets any crimes involving under $950 in the misdemeanor category.
Felonies are serious crimes, typically punishable by imprisonment for a year or more (or in uncivilized nations that still retain the death penalty, by death). Typically felons are sent to state prison, though they may be but in local jails or even just probation.
Misdemeanors are crimes which are less serious and typically involve smaller fines and imprisonment for less than one year. Criminals sentenced for misdemeanors serve their time, if any, in local prisons.
Many people who regularly commit crimes assess the risks versus rewards of a particular crime. Reducing a felony crime to a misdemeanor may encourage criminals to commit more crimes.
So why reduce sentences? Keeping prisoners for long periods of time in state prisons is expensive. When such prisoners are not already career criminals or gang members, they often "graduate" to that status, with state prisons acting as schools.
For many people who are not hell bent on a career of crime, a short jail stay is about as effective as a long one in deterring future criminal activity. They are less likely to join gangs in local jails.
There are a number of crimes covered under Proposition 47, but probably the most important one is drug possession. Apparently in a typical year 40,000 people in the state of California are given felony convictions just for possessing small quantities of illegal drugs. Most are probably not drug dealers. They are just users. They are astray, but may otherwise be law-abiding, productive citizens. Sending them to state prison is a waste of prison space and taxpayer dollars.
Effects of 47 will be mixed, but on the whole they are fairer and will allow state resources to be freed up for better uses. Including stopping serious crimes.
Yes on 47, no felony charges for drug possession for personal use.
California Proposition 47 official text and arguments