Fair and Just Sentencing Passes Key Committee

The California Assembly Public Safety Committee today approved another common-sense, evidence-based policy approach to criminal justice reforms.

Specifically, Senate Bill 1393, the Fair and Just Sentencing Reform Act, would eliminate automatic penalties that have contributed to the state’s mass incarceration crisis and failed ‘tough on crime’ policies by returning discretion in sentencing of serious felonies to judges.

SB 1393 would apply to mandatory five-year sentence enhancements. It is one of the bills in the #EquityAndJustice2018 package carried jointly by Sens. Holly J. Mitchell and Ricardo Lara as follow-up measures to last year’s successful reforms.

“Mass incarceration is a massive moral failure and policy failure,” Mitchell said. “It’s a moral failure because we now know that it is injurious to families and to the economies of low-income communities. We all value, respect and want communities that are safe. This will help us move in a strategic, smart way to help an overburdened, high-cost, criminal justice system.”

Lara agreed.

“Harsh penalties and growing jail populations have failed to reduce crime, but they have had a devastating impact on a generation of young black and Latino men,” Lara said. “Incarcerating someone for extra years without regard for the facts of their case does not serve the interest of justice or rehabilitation.”

As written, SB 1393 would restore the court’s discretion to strike sentence enhancements for prior felony convictions when a person is charged with a serious felony. It would retain existing sanctions for the most serious crimes.

It is sponsored by 10 community and public-interest groups, including the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy and Policy; the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles; the California Coalition for Women Prisoners; Californians United for a Responsible Budget; the Drug Policy Alliance; the Women’s Foundation of California; and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Letters of support have also been received from at least 60 persons and organizations, including the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; the Greenlining Institute; San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi; and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

The remaining bills in this year’s #EquityAndJustice2018 package by the Los Angeles-area Democrats are:

SB 439 – Minimum Age Incarceration

This juvenile justice-reform measure would exclude children age 11 and younger from juvenile court jurisdiction and would promote the rights, health and well-being of the child by curbing premature exposure to incarceration. Status: Approved today by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

SB 1050 – Services for exonerated people

This would provide services and support for exonerated people after prison, including healthcare, work training and updating exoneree records to reflect their wrongful convictions. Status: Approved today by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

SB 1391 – Justice for children under age 16

Ensures that youth ages 14 and 15 who commit crimes get the services and help they need by prohibiting them from being tried as adults and keeping them in the juvenile justice system. Status: Awaiting review by Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 1393 will next be heard by the Assembly Public Safety Committee; no date has yet been set.

Ray Sotero 

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