Sept. 18, 2017: DAVIS VANGUARD - Package of Criminal Justice Reform Bills Awaits Governor’s Signature

September 18, 2017

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Legislature OK’s final juvenile justice-reform bills updating Miranda rights, parole for child offenders

ust weeks after 25,000 people attended a concert here by artist-musician Common to push for common sense justice reforms, the California Legislature approved the final two bills in the #EquityAndJustice package.

Senate Bills 394 and 395, jointly authored by Sens. Ricardo Lara and Senator Holly J. Mitchell, now go to Gov. Brown, and supporters praised the package for its goal to promote prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.

A video with Common posted on Senator Lara’s Facebook page has received more than 35,000 views. In the video, Common tells a group of formerly incarcerated youth and advocates in Lara’s office: “We care about those that are incarcerated, and we care about our young people that we don’t want to end up being put in prison.”

“California’s laws are still stuck in the past when our courts routinely sentenced young people to life without parole and routinely took away all hope of redemption,” Mitchell said. “We know better now, and these bills are part of our movement toward equity and justice.”

Lara agreed.

“Hearing the stories of young people who confessed to crimes they didn’t commit is heartbreaking and should be a wake-up call for our whole justice system,” he said. “SB 395 protects children and
families from the tragedy of false confession and brings our 50-year-old Miranda rights into the 21st century. Young people can take responsibility for their actions and having legal counsel will ensure they understand their rights and uphold our constitutional values in the process.”

SB 394 allows young people sentenced to life without parole to have a parole hearing after 25 years, complying with a recent U.S. Supreme Court case.

SB 395 would require young people to consult with legal counsel before waiving their Miranda rights in a police interrogation. It passed the Senate in May with bipartisan support.

Research shows that young people are much more likely to confess to crimes they didn’t commit, and they are less likely to understand their constitutional rights than adults.

Jerome Dixon is one of those young people when he was arrested at age 17 and interrogated for 25 hours. “On the 25th hour I was nothing more but an empty shell of a child, and I caved in and told them what they wanted to hear,” he told KQED radio. He was recently released after 21 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

SB 395 is co-sponsored by Human Rights Watch, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Silicon Valley De-Bug, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and the National Center for Youth Law and has support from the California State PTA, Compton Unified School District, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and nearly 30 civil rights and juvenile justice organizations.

The six bills in the #EquityAndJustice package by Lara and Mitchell are:

SB 180 – Drug Sentence Enhancements
This reform measure seeks to put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion by reducing sentence enhancements for certain low level, nonviolent drug offenses. Status: Passed by Legislature and awaiting action by Governor Brown.

SB 190 – Ending Juvenile Fees
Puts an end to innocent defendants being required to reimburse the courts for the cost of appointed counsel by specifying that this requirement may only be imposed in cases where the defendant is ultimately convicted of a crime. Status: Passed by Legislature and awaiting action by Brown.

SB 355 – No Court Fees for the Innocent
This provides that only those who are convicted of a crime are required to reimburse the courts for legal counsel fees. Status: Brown signed into law on July 10.

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: Passed by Legislature and awaiting action by Brown.

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: Passed by Legislature and awaiting action by Brown.