Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 25 bills on Oct. 8 aimed at setting a path to reform California’s criminal justice system, he reported in a news release.
The bills include support for those reentering the community after serving their sentences, including creating a system to automatically expunge records of individuals previously convicted of low-level offenses, as well as reform unfair sentencing practices, and enhance support for victims of crime.
“I am signing more than two dozen bills that give hope to those that have earned a second chance in our communities, and also support victims of crime,” said Gov. Newsom. “These bills show a new path to ensure our state moves closer toward a more equitable criminal justice system.”
One of the bills signed is AB 1076 by Assembly member Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, which will create an automated record clearance system for qualifying low-level offenses, so an individual’s records can be sealed in a more efficient manner, as is their right pursuant to California law.
Under AB 1076, the California Department of Justice will establish the automated record clearance system for individuals arrested or convicted after Jan. 1, 2021, and will replace the current one,
in which individuals must petition directly to the court. The new system will exclude registered sex offenders and those with any pending criminal charges.
“People shouldn’t have to pay for their mistakes for the rest of their lives. A fresh start improves an individual’s chances of succeeding and reduces the likelihood of recidivism. Automating the record clearance process will enable former offenders to get back on their feet and lead
productive lives,” said Assembly member Ting. “Our economy and society pay the price when job-seeking workers are shut out.”
“Many Californians living with past criminal records have completed their sentences and paid their debts, yet still face thousands of legal prohibitions preventing eligibility for jobs, housing and many other keys to family stability and economic mobility,”said Lenore Anderson, president of Californians for Safety and Justice. “It’s time for meaningful rehabilitation. By signing this bill, Gov. Newsom is giving people living with old records long overdue relief and a real path to stability—and that is better for public safety and the economy. With this new law, California is emerging as a national leader in reintegration for families and strengthening communities.”
For other criminal justice- related bills signed Oct.8 (see boxes below)
• SB 136 by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, removes the one-year sentence enhancement that is applied to current sentences for each prior felony jail or prison term served.
• AB 484 by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, removes a mandatory minimum sentence for certain drug crimes, allowing for judicial discretion in imposing any period of confinement.
• SB 36 by Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, improves transparency for pretrial risk assessments by requiring regular validation of assessment tools and requiring the Judicial Council to publish a yearly report on its website with data related to outcomes and potential biases.
• AB 1618 by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, prohibits plea bargains that require a defendant to generally waive unknown future potential benefits of changes in the law that may occur after the date of the plea.
RElEASE ANd REENTRy
• AB 278 by Assembly member Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, allows the California Conservation Corps to accept applicants who are on parole.
• AB 1261 by Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, eliminates the requirement for individuals convicted of a certain drug offense to register with local law enforcement.
• SB 310 by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, permits a person with a felony conviction to serve on a jury, unless they are on any form of supervision for a felony conviction, or are a registered sex offender.
• AB 1668 by Assembly member Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, establishes the Education and Employment Reentry Program within the California Conservation Corps and authorizes the director to enroll formerly incarcerated individuals.
• AB 917 by Assembly member Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, further expedites the victim certification process for immigrants, including when the victim is in removal proceedings, for the purposes of obtaining T-Visas or U-Visas.
• SB 22 by Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, requires law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits to a crime lab or other rapid-turnaround DNA program within 20 days.
• SB 375 by Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, extends the deadline for victims of violent crimes to file an application for compensation from three years to seven years.
• AB 433 by Assembly member James Ramos, D-Highland, requires a hearing in open court before early termination of probation, and for crime victims and their attorneys to be made aware of early termination of probation.
• AB 415 by Assembly member Brian Maienschein, D-San Diego, authorizes the California Victim Compensation Board to compensate a crime victim for the costs of temporary housing for a pet and for any pet deposit that may be required for relocation.
• AB 629 by Assembly member Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, authorizes the California Victim Compensation Board to provide compensation equal to loss of income or support to victims of human trafficking.
• AB 1394 by Assembly member Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, eliminates the imposition of any fee charged by a Superior Court or probation department to an applicant who files a petition to seal Juvenile Court records.
• SB 394 by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, authorizes a court, in consultation with the prosecuting entity and the public defender, to create a pretrial diversion program for defendants who are primary caregivers of a child under 18 years of age.
• AB 965 by Assembly member Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, authorizes the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to allow persons eligible for youthful offender parole to obtain an earlier youth offender parole hearing by earning certain educational merit credits, subject to CDCR regulations.
• AB 1423 by Assembly member Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, establishes a process for juvenile offenders to request to return their case to Juvenile Court.
• AB 1454 by Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, increases the award amounts available through the Youth Reinvestment Grant Program and allows nonprofit organizations to apply for grants through the program.
By The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Most states have down- sized their prison populations in recent years, but the pace of decarceration is insufficient to undo nearly four decades of unrelenting growth.
The recent pace of decline would take 72 years to cut the US prison population by 50%, according to a new analysis by The Sentencing Project’s Senior Research Analyst Nazgol Ghandnoosh.
US Prison Population Trends: Massive Buildup and Modest Decline finds that 39 states and the federal government had downsized their prisons as of 2017.
Five states—Alaska, New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut and New York—led the nation in reducing their prison populations by more than 30% since reaching their peak levels.
Some Southern states, which have exceptionally high rates of incarceration, also achieved double-digit percent- age reductions in their prison populations since reaching their peak levels, including Alabama (25%), South Carolina (17%), Louisiana (16%), and Mississippi (15%).
Fourteen states downsized their prisons by less than 5%.
Eleven states, led by Arkansas, had their highest ever prison populations in 2017. Additionally, Alaska—one of the current leaders in state decarceration—repealed several aspects of its major criminal justice reform initiatives in 2019.
While some critics have charged that decarceration would lead to rising crime, states with the most substantial reductions in their prison populations have often outpaced the nationwide crime drop.
Clearly, waiting seven decades to substantively alter a system that is out of step with the world and is racially biased is unacceptable. Expediting the end of mass incarceration will require accelerating the end of the Drug War and scaling back sentences for all crimes, including violent offenses for which half of people in prison are serving time.
“Going forward, what was once called a convicted felon or an offender released from jail will be a ‘formerly incar- cerated person,’ or a ‘justice-
involved’ person or simply a ‘returning resident.’”
The city’s Board of Super- visors passed a non-binding resolution encouraging the change by police and courts. The newspaper said the dis- trict attorney “is already on board.”
Supervisor Matt Haney joined nine other supervisors in voting for the resolution.
“We want them ultimately to become contributing citi- zens, and referring to them as felons is like a scarlet letter that they can never get away from,” Haney explained.
“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done.”
The non-binding resolution was passed in July.
Mayor London Breed did not endorse the resolution because it is non-binding, ac- cording to the mayor’s spokes- person, Jeff Cretan. However, “she is always happy to work with the board on issues around equity and criminal justice reform,” Cretan said.
The San Francisco Police Department has taken note of the board’s action and has “made our members aware of the resolution and are researching possible impacts on operations and communications,” said police spokesperson David Stevenson.
Study advances alternative form of criminal justice
• AB 1331 by Assemblymember Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, addresses data gaps and improves access to criminal justice data by establishing reporting requirements across the system and clarifying existing law regarding access.
• AB 45 by Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, prohibits CDCR and city and county jails from charging inmates a co-pay for medical visits.
• SB 399 by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, requires the appointment of two members of the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training who are not peace officers and have expertise in implicit and explicit biases, cultural competency, mental health and policing or work with vulnerable populations.
• AB 1215 by Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, prohibits law enforcement from installing, activating, or using a facial recognition system in connection with a law enforcement agency’s body-worn camera.
• AB 1600 by Assembly member Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, shortens the notice requirement in criminal cases when a defendant files a motion to discover police officer misconduct from 16 days to 10 days.
• Other criminal justice items the governor undertook this year included an Executive Order halting executions in California, which he announced in March.
• He also announced earlier this year that the CDCR’s Division of JuvenileJustice would shift to the Health and Human Services Agency beginning July 1, 2020.