Urge Gov. Brown’s Signature on Key Reform Bills

As Brian Goldstein reports, criminal justice reformers were able to win passage of some very important bills, but these pieces still require Gov. Brown's signature in order to become law. Here are three to write the governor about: AB 218 - This bans the "box" that people with felony conviction records must check on many employment forms. The bill applies to governmental agencies - excluding those that serve the very young, the very old, and the handicapped. It still permits background … [Read more...]

Governor Brown, California Legislature Squeezed on Criminal Justice Reforms

September is a pivotal time in California politics as state legislation must pass out of both houses of the legislature before the September 13 deadline and then Governor Brown has until October 13 by which he can sign or veto these bills. Both the legislature and Governor Brown are currently reviewing a wide range of juvenile and criminal justice policies that will have a long-term impact on the state. California continues to work through the implications of Realignment, and develop a safe … [Read more...]

Drug Sentencing Reform Bill Approved by California Assembly

Sacramento is at this very moment considering spending another one billion taxpayer dollars on prisons. That’s crazy! We’ve given our elected officials a better option: pass modest drug sentencing reform that would actually safely reduce incarceration costs. Well, guess what?! They’ve done it! Last Wednesday, the California State Assembly passed SB 649, a bill authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) which gives local prosecutors the flexibility to charge low-level, non-violent drug … [Read more...]

Pelican Bay Prisoners Suspend Historic Hunger Strike After 59 Days

After 59 days on hunger strike, prisoners at Pelican Bay have suspended their peaceful protest. Representatives of the Short CorridorCollective at Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit issued a statement this morning: In response to much sincere urging of loved ones, supporters, our attorneys and current and former state legislators, Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock, and Tom Hayden, for whom we have the upmost respect, we decided to suspend our hunger strike. Read the complete Statement … [Read more...]

Rally Legislators to Reduce Drug Possession Penalties

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, Senior Policy Advocate at the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties requests our help getting California Senate Bill 649 passed. Authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and coauthored by Senators Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) and Hanna Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), the bill reduces the penalties for certain controlled substances: Existing law provides that the unlawful possession of certain controlled substances, including, among others, opiates, opium, opium … [Read more...]

Troubled Young People Deserve Compassion, Not Punishment

At the turn of the 20th Century, Lucy Flower, my grandmother’s great grandmother, established the world’s first juvenile court inside the Cook County courthouse in central Chicago. Flower, who had been orphaned, was horrified by the misery and bleak futures of the city’s poorest children, and believed their criminal behaviors should be handled differently than that of adults. She and the other early “child-savers” viewed children and young teenagers as victims, neglected by their parents and … [Read more...]

SB 649’s “Wobbler” Option Creates Flexibility for Certain Drug Offenders

SB 649, authored by State Senator Mark Leno, pursues a similar approach to Realignment by recognizing that people convicted of simple drug possession, as well as the overall community, will not benefit from austere penalties. Rather, these incarcerated persons would benefit greatly from sentences that expand access to rehabilitation, which can be better provided through this bill. SB 649 brings the penalties for criminal handling of more addictive drugs, such as cocaine, into line with drugs … [Read more...]

War on Drugs: The ‘Wobbler’ Option

Simple possession of small amounts of methamphetamine — enough for personal use but presumably not for dealing — is a "wobbler" in California, meaning that offenses can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors. It's different with possession of cocaine, opiates such as heroin and many other addictive drugs; they currently can be charged only as felonies. The state Senate has now passed a bill to bring criminal handling of those drugs into line with methamphetamine, and the measure is … [Read more...]

Sacramento Advances Bill to Review Sentences Imposed on Children

Traveling to Sacramento to do legislative visits has never been something that I enjoy doing. To put it lightly, politics is not my cup of tea. However, I consider it a necessity to engage in this process if we hope to affect extreme sentencing laws that destroy lives and communities. Yesterday was an exception to my typical aversion.  A couple of advocacy colleagues and I were blessed to travel to Sacramento with five of the best human beings who manifest the transformation of darkness to … [Read more...]

Crunch Time in Sacramento: Your Voice Needed!

Many Justice Not Jails priority issues are addressed in key pieces of legislation now under consideration. Bills need to clear at least one house of the legislature by the end of May in order be considered during this term.  If a bill has moved from committee to the floor of one of the chambers or has moved to the "second house" for final action, you should contact your representative to urge his or her support. If a bill is on what's called "suspense" (because it affects the state budget), you … [Read more...]