Sept. 12, 2017: Legislature OKs effort to help communities thrive; Next stop – Gov. Brown’s desk

September 12, 2017

#EquityAndJustice measure would end certain sentence enhancements 

SACRAMENTO – Lawmakers today approved and sent to the governor an #EquityAndJustice bill to reform California’s criminal justice system to help children and young adults thrive.

Approved was Senate Bill 180, also known as the Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Enhancement Act or the RISE Act. This reform measure authored by Sens. Holly J. Mitchell and Ricardo Lara reduces sentencing enhancements for certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenses and puts greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.

SB 180 would remove only one sentence enhancement that adds an additional three years of incarceration for each prior conviction of low-level, nonviolent drug offenses. The bill does not repeal sentence enhancements for using a minor to commit drug offenses, nor does it amend any other felony enhancement.

Today’s action follows the Legislature’s approval last week of SB 190, which would end unreasonable fees on the families of incarcerated children and also awaits the governor's signature.

The governor has until mid-October to sign, veto or allow the measures to become law without his signature.

In May, Brown signed the first of the #EquityAndJustice bills, SB 355, which will, on Jan. 1, 2018, end the requirement that innocent defendants reimburse the counties for the cost of appointed counsel. Instead, only those who are convicted will be charged.

“People are realizing that it is time to reform the criminal justice system so that there’s more emphasis on justice and rehabilitation,” Mitchell said after the final vote on SB 180, which is supported by nearly 200 business, community, legal and public-service groups. “By repealing sentencing enhancements for people who have already served their time, California can instead make greater investments in our communities.

“Let’s focus on putting ‘justice’ in our criminal-justice system.”

Lara agreed:

“Harsh sentencing laws have condemned a generation of men of color, and with SB 180 and other bills in the Equity and Justice package we are on our way to restoring the values of rehabilitation to the criminal justice system,” he said.

Mitchell, of Los Angeles, and Lara, of Bell Gardens, unveiled their #EquityAndJustice package during a press conference on March 20. Details and video HERE.

Supporters hailed passage of SB 180.

“The policy of sentencing people with nonviolent drug offenses to long periods of incarceration has proven an expensive failure,” said Eunisses Hernandez, Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Sentence enhancements for prior drug convictions have not in any way reduced availability of drugs nor has it made our communities any safer. Repealing this war on drugs tool will free funds that can be reinvested in community programs that improve the quality of life and reduce crime.”

Ivette Alé, statewide coordinator for​ Californians United for a Responsible Budget, agreed.

“We celebrate the restorative impact (SB 180) will have on our communities,” Alé said. “These enhancements have resulted in sentencing thousands of people — mainly young men and women of color — to long periods of incarceration in brutal state prisons and county jails, destabilizing families and communities.”

The remaining bills in the package:

  • SB 393 – Sealing of Arrest Records
    This bill would seal arrest records and remove barriers to employment for those arrested but not convicted of a crime. Status: To be voted on the Assembly floor.
  • SB 394 – Juveniles Life Without the Possibility of Parole
    This measure would bring California into compliance with Montgomery v. Louisiana decision that juveniles cannot be sentenced to Life Without Parole. Status: To be voted on the Assembly floor.
  • SB 395 – Miranda Rights for Youth
    This proposal would require those under the age of 18 to consult with legal counsel before they waive their constitutional rights in interrogations with police. Status: To be voted on the Assembly floor.

For more information, visit Sen. Mitchell’s Web site HERE or at the address below.

Sen. Lara is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was first elected to the Legislature in 2010. He represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 33, which includes Long Beach and the Southeast Los Angeles cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, South Gate, and much of Los Angeles. More at www.senate.ca.gov/lara

Sen. Mitchell is chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. A member of the Legislature for more than six years,  she represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 30, which includes Culver City and much of Los Angeles. See a map of Mitchell’s district that includes a demographic breakdown of its residents and more HERE. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/Mitchell