At the height of prison reform, Californians may be repeating the mistakes that led to prison overcrowding and excessive punishments in the first place.
In the wake of a rise in sexual assaults across California, several state bills passed into law this November will stiffen punishments against a particular category of “offenders.”
In the California State Senate, Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) introduced legislation, which was passed by the California Legislature in August, that increases penalties for possessing date-rape drugs. Another Senate bill passed that exempts people whose crimes result in a police officer’s death from compassionate or medical release.
Meanwhile, the state assembly passed two bills: AB 2888, which will create mandatory minimum sentences for some sexual assault offenses, and AB 701, which will expand the definition of rape.
“We need them,” said Ronell Draper, an incarcerated man, referring to the laws. “But what ends up happening, like with three strikes, is the laws are going affect people it wasn’t intended to effect.”
In the 1990s, Three Strikes was initiated to get violent criminals off the street, but the law ended up affecting thousands of petty criminals and drug addicts.
Tommy “Shakur” Ross supports the recent laws. “Looking at the guy, Brock Turner,” he said, “the way he got off. That was an outrage.”
James King, an incarcerated clerk for Prison University Project, said that California’s laws will continue to be “crazy” so long as legislation comes from outrage rather than comprehensive criminal justice.
“It’s hard to have an opinion because I don’t know the laws’ particulars,” T. Bolema, a teacher, said. “But we know where decisions like this have gotten us before.”