In addition, senators approved a companion measure that seeks a modest step toward enacting the bipartisan movement to end wasteful incarceration spending in favor of community reinvestments.
Both bills are part of a #EquityAndJustice package jointly authored by Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly J. Mitchell. The two Los Angeles-area Democrats unveiled the measures March 20 seeking major justice reforms that put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.
“All we are saying is children under 12 deserve to be treated differently,” Mitchell said after the Senate approved Senate Bill 439 and SB 180. “We are not denying that some children need some level of intervention. If we are going to end the cradle to prison pipeline, we have to start with our youngest Californians.”
Her legislative partner agreed.
“Too many of California’s laws are out of date with what we now know about children’s development, and it is time for them to grow up,” Lara said. “By investing in children’s rehabilitation we are making communities safer.”
More than 75 groups support SB 180, including criminal justice advocates, public defenders, the Catholic Conference, Friends and a multitude of Jewish congregations
“Long prison sentences have been proven not to be successful at reducing the availability of drugs in our communities nor have they helped our communities become a safer place for us to live or raise our families,” said Sandra Johnson, Policy Fellow with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. “What enhancements do is overcrowd the punishment system with large amounts of black and brown people, and tear apart families for years.”
Jim Lindburg, Legislative Director for the Friends Committee on Legislation, agreed. “Today California took an important step toward dismantling the failed war on drugs, which has targeted poor communities of color,” he said “People need our help and support – not more punishment.”
SBs 180 and 439 now go to the Assembly.