Support for 2014 Legislation
Californians for Safety and Justice is proud to support several pieces of legislation (and budget proposals) in 2014:
AB 1919 (V.M. Perez) – Increase the Use of Risk Assessments: Research shows that we reduce repeat offenses when people in the justice system are matched with programming and supervision determined by an individual risk and needs assessment. This bill will encourage counties to use a validated risk and needs assessment for people in their local justice system.
AB 2612 (Dababneh) – Increase Access to Drug Treatment Programs: Nearly two-thirds of all jail inmates suffer from a substance abuse disorder, and, if unaddressed, such disorders drive criminal behavior. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, California has an opportunity to increase the use of federal Medi-Cal dollars to fund drug treatment programs as an effective alternative to warehousing people in jails. This bill would address existing barriers to increased placement in residential programs.
SB 466 (DeSaulnier) – Creating the California Institute for Criminal Justice Policy: This bill would create a nonpartisan, independent institute to conduct timely research on criminal justice and public safety issues. Its primary responsibility will be creating a Master Plan for California Public Safety based on research and evidence-based practices in the field, and the Institute will also analyze any criminal justice bill to determine its effectiveness, cost-benefit and suitability within the Master Plan.
SB 1310 (Lara) – Reduce Costly Deportations for Low-Level Misdemeanors: Federal law requires deportation for any non-citizen convicted of a crime that can be sentenced to a year of incarceration or longer (even if the person is here legally). The statute’s intent is to prevent people convicted of serious or violent crime from staying in the country, but in California many of the lowest-level, nonviolent, non-serious misdemeanors (e.g., writing a bad check) can result in a maximum sentence of 365 days in county jail. That triggers federal immigration laws, ultimately wasting law enforcement and court resources on deportation proceedings for low-level misdemeanors. SB 1310 will reduce the maximum misdemeanor penalty by one day (to 364 days) to avoid this problem.
SB 1010 (Mitchell) – Eliminate the Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity: Although cocaine (in powder or base form) has nearly identical effects on the brain, offenses involving cocaine base (“crack”) have higher penalties than identical violations involving cocaine powder (and, unlike powder cocaine, crack cocaine offenses are not eligible for probation). This bill would eliminate any discrepancies in sentencing and probation eligibility between these offenses.
The following are four specific proposals currently being considered within the next fiscal year budget that we actively support:
Help Crime Victims Recover, Avoid Repeat Victimization by Expanding Trauma Recovery: Victims often experience long-term effects, including trauma and mental health conditions. Left unaddressed, these conditions can impact victims’ ability to recover and may lead to financial problems, mental health issues, substance abuse, depression and further victimization. The existing system can be confusing to access and often only offers short-term support. The Trauma Recovery Center model takes a holistic approach to healing the person in a welcoming and safe environment that provides long-term support.
Improve the Outcomes for Women and Families via Alternative Custody Programs: Research has shown that women in the justice system who maintain a relationship with their children are less likely to reoffend, and their children are less likely to suffer trauma and to be incarcerated as adults. By implementing programs that allow women who have committed nonviolent, non-serious to serve their time in alternative custody programs, we can reduce crime and population pressures on prisons and jails.
Ensure Structured Reentry to Reduce Recidivism by Expanding Split Sentences: The first few weeks an individual is released from prison or jail is a crucial time. Structured reentry, through the use of reentry services and supervision, can reduce the likelihood of reoffending and increase public safety. Under Public Safety Realignment, some people are serving their entire sentence in jail and have no support or supervision upon release. By making split sentences the default (unless a judge rules otherwise out of the interest of public safety), we can ensure individuals have a more effective reintegration into the community.
Reduce Jail Pressures, Costs by Incentivizing the Use of Pretrial Programs: Using jail space to house low-risk people awaiting trial is expensive and bad for public safety. For low-risk people not yet convicted of a crime, evidence-based pretrial programs can increase court appearances, reduce recidivism and save valuable public safety dollars.
Smart Justice Strategies to Reduce Prison Overcrowding: Incentivizing good behavior and participation in rehabilitation programming is essential to managing an overcrowded prison system. Extending access to earned time and programming credits to more inmates will encourage safety and rehabilitation within our prison system. We also support expanding the use of medical and elderly parole, so that these lower-risk people can be closely monitored in the community, while receiving more cost-effective care.