AUBURN (CBS13/AP) – Seven people will be released from the Placer County Jail today as a result of the passing of Proposition 47.

Sheriffs across the state immediately began implementing Proposition 47 after it passed, which calls for treating shoplifting, forgery, fraud, petty theft and possession of small amounts of drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines, as misdemeanors instead of felonies.

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Supporters of the proposition say it’ll save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in incarceration costs, but some law enforcement agencies say it could result in an increase in crime.

Two-dozen suspects who were being held on those charges walked out of Sacramento County jail two days after 58 percent of voters approved the initiative on November 4. They were among the more than 400 Sacramento jail inmates expected to be freed while they await trial on reduced charges that in many cases will no longer keep people behind bars after arrests.

It appears the measure intended to save hundreds of millions of dollars a year in reduced prison and jail costs is already having that effect. Under the initiative, savings will be diverted to rehabilitation programs intended to reduce crime, though the programs will lag far behind the criminals’ release.

Hours after the bill passed, Fresno County deputies were instructed to stop jailing people arrested on the lower-level crimes, said Sheriff Margaret Mims. Suspects there and in other counties are now issued citations similar to traffic tickets and ordered to appear in court.

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Critics predicted, however, that the measure will hurt public safety.

“It’s a grand experiment: Can we take this money we’re no longer spending on jail and prison and turn it into rehabilitation one day down the line?” said Cory Salzillo, legislative director for the California State Sheriffs’ Association. “But the one thing we have for certain is more crime, less people in custody and more victims.”

The savings won’t be calculated until 2016, and it will take more time to divide the money among rehabilitation programs.

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