2015 Session Overview
Californians for Safety and Justice was proud to support several pieces of legislation (and budget proposals) in 2015:
SB 176 (Mitchell) – Protecting Child Witnesses. For children 13 years or younger, testifying in open court about a violent crime can be a traumatic experience. California already provides protections, such as testifying via closed-circuit television, for child victims, but the law is unclear on whether those protections extend to child witnesses. This bill will clarify that child witnesses who testify about a violent crime are eligible for the same protections.
Status: Signed by Governor Brown on August 10, 2015
AB 1056 (Atkins) - Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. In November 2014, California voters passed the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act (Proposition 47) by 60%. Among other provisions, Prop 47 directed 65% of the savings from reduced prison costs to the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) for grant programs to provide mental health treatment and substance abuse programs, as well as diversion programs, to people who commit low-level crimes. AB 1056 provides additional direction to the BSCC in distributing these grants, including giving preference to applications that leverage other funding sources and include interdepartmental cooperation and partnerships with community-based organizations.
Status: Signed by Governor Brown on August 2, 2015
SB 556 (de Leon) - Victim Compensation Program. Receiving timely services after a traumatizing event is critical for crime survivors and victims across California. Current law requires the Victim Compensation Program (VCP) respond to all claims within 180 days, and have an average response time of 90 days. However, that timeline doesn't begin until the application is "accepted"- a term that does not have a statutory definition, leading to much longer wait times for survivors and victims. Because of this lack of clarity, an application is not "accepted" because of minor issues such as an applicant forgetting to sign the application, or because the VCP is awaiting documentation from a third party. SB 556 would define "accepted" as when the VCP first receives the application, and requires the program to post data around the number of applications received, accepted, denied, and the number of incomplete applications.
Status: Currently on the Inactive File in the Assembly
SB 518 (Leno) – Trauma Recovery Center Grants. Victims of crime often experience long-term effects, including trauma and other mental health conditions. Left unaddressed, these conditions can impact victims’ ability to recover and may lead to further financial and health problems, including substance abuse, depression and further victimization. Current services for victims can be confusing to access and often only offer short-time recovery support. The Trauma Recovery Center model takes a more comprehensive approach to healing the person in a welcoming and safe environment that provides long-term support. This bill creates specific standards for potential recipients of TRC grants, and creates a TRC Center of Excellence to provide training, technical assistance and ongoing program evaluations.
Status: Currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee
SB 382 (Lara) – Youth Transfer Bill. In certain circumstances, California allows teenagers to be tried as adults. Laws permitting this were enacted before advances in research about child brain development (affecting their actions) and before recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions limited certain justice system policies and practices because of this new understanding about brain development. This bill will align California’s legal process with scientific research and recent court decisions by giving trial judges discretion to send minors back to juvenile court if the young person would be better served in the juvenile system. It also clarifies the factors a judge considers when determining if a child should be tried in the juvenile or adult system.
Status: Signed by Governor Brown on September 1, 2015
SB 261 (Hancock) – Parole Review for Young Adults with Lengthy Sentences. Recent psychological research on adolescent brain development shows that certain areas of the brain, particularly those that affect judgment and decision-making do not fully develop until the early 20’s. The fact that young adults are still developing means that they are uniquely situated for personal growth. This bill would reform California’s laws to reflect this latest scientific evidence on adolescent and young adult development, recognizing that youth who were under the age of 23 at that time of their crime have an especially strong ability to grow and change.
Status: Signed by Governor Brown on October 3, 2015
2014 Session Overview
Californians for Safety and Justice was proud to support several pieces of legislation in 2014:
AB 2612 (Dababneh) – Health homes care coordination. Jail inmates are more likely than the general population to suffer from chronic health issues, mental illness and substance use disorders. This bill would allow coordinated care to begin during the last 30 days of incarceration to improve health outcomes and, ultimately, reduce the likelihood of incarceration. STATUS: Passed the Assembly and Senate but vetoed by the Governor.
SB 1161 (Beall) – Reducing incarceration through increased access to drug treatment. Nearly two-thirds of all jail inmates suffer from a substance abuse disorder that, if unaddressed, can lead to repeat incarceration. 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. STATUS: Signed into law.
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. STATUS: Held in Assembly Appropriations Committee.
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 reduces the maximum misdemeanor penalty by one day (to 364 days) to avoid this problem. STATUS: Signed into law.
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. STATUS: Signed into law.
Assembly Concurrent Resolution 155 – Adverse Childhood Experiences: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) include traumatic abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction that can have a profound effect on a child’s developing brain and body. ACEs can result in "toxic stress": the strong or prolonged activation of the stress response that can disrupt normal learning, health and behavior. The outcome is a lifetime of health consequences, which can lead to with inflated costs to the state’s juvenile justice, criminal justice and health care systems. ACR 155 emphasizes the Legislature’s commitment to identifying evidence-based solutions to reduce exposure to such childhood experiences. STATUS: Adopted.
The following are specific priorities of ours that were enacted in the state budget signed on June 20, 2014:
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.
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.
2013 Session Overview
Californians for Safety and Justice was proud to support several pieces of legislation in 2013:
Medi-Cal as a tool to reduce crime and jail costs
AB 720 (Skinner) — Many people in jail have mental health or addiction problems, and as many as nine in 10 have no health coverage. Studies show that enrolling jail populations in federally funded Medi-Cal can reduce recidivism (16 percent for those with mental illness) and save money. This bill provides a framework for counties to enroll eligible jail inmates in Medi-Cal and provides counties with valuable tools for enrollment, including authorizing counties to enroll individuals on their behalf, and allowing someone with Medi-Cal coverage to have it suspended, instead of cancelled, if they are incarcerated again. This ensures that upon release they can access medical care, mental health care and substance abuse treatment.
STATUS: Signed into law on October 8, 2013
Expanding trauma recovery services for crime victims
SB 580 (Leno) — To provide comprehensive healing and wellness services to victims of crime, this bill supplies grants from the state’s existing Restitution Fund to replicate the successful Trauma Recovery Center in San Francisco across the state. Victims often experience long-term effects (e.g., trauma and mental health conditions) that can, if unaddressed, impact their ability to recover – and may lead to further financial and mental health problems (e.g., substance abuse, depression and further victimization). Existing victims options can be confusing to access and often only offer short periods for recovery. The Trauma Recovery Center model takes a holistic approach to healing the person in a welcoming and safe environment that provides long-term support.
STATUS: Signed in June 2013 as a budget trailer bill
Extending effective work furlough options (co-sponsored with the Chief Probation Officers of California)
AB 752 (Jones-Sawyer) — Under existing law, people who are sentenced to county jail for misdemeanors are eligible for work furlough programs focused on job training and rehabilitation. These programs also allow people with employment to maintain those jobs (key to reducing recidivism) and reserves jail space for higher-risk people. AB 752 would extend these programs to people serving time for specific low-risk felonies in county jail.
STATUS: Signed into law in July 2013
Ban the Box – Removing Barriers to Employment
AB 218 — Research shows again and again that stable employment significantly reduces the likelihood that someone who has been incarcerated will reoffend. Barriers to employment for these people make their successful reentry into society even more difficult, which affects public safety. Otherwise qualified individuals are often discouraged from applying for work because job applications ask about conviction histories. AB 218 (Dickinson) would prohibit state and local agencies from inquiring about an applicant’s record until the agency has determined the individuals meets the minimum employment qualifications for the position.
STATUS: Signed into law on October 10, 2013
Smarter Justice for Juveniles with Adult Sentences
SB 260 — Recent scientific evidence on adolescent brain development show that certain parts of the brain, particularly effecting decision-making and judgment, do not fully develop until one’s early 20s. Both the U.S. and California Supreme Courts recognized the significance of this research and banned mandatory life sentences for juveniles, and California also banned the imposition of de facto life sentences for juveniles. SB 260 (Hancock) would create a parole process for people given lengthy sentences as juveniles, recognizing the role of brain development while still holding him or her accountable for the crime.
STATUS: Signed into law in September 2013
Flexibility in charging drug possession cases
SB 649 (Leno), which we’re cosponsoring with seven organizations, would give District Attorneys and Judges discretion to charge simple possession of certain controlled substances as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Current law requires such cases be charged as felonies. This bill will help to alleviate prison overcrowding and potentially save the state millions of dollars.
STATUS: Passed Senate and Assembly, vetoed by the governor