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California Crime Survivors Release 10-Point “Victims’ Agenda” Calling for Leaders to Prioritize Urgent Needs of Diverse Victims of Crime

March 19, 2021

State’s Leading Survivor Organizations Call on Lawmakers to Invest in Stabilizing California’s Victim Compensation and Violence Intervention and Prevention Programs

OAKLAND, Calif. – A network of 10,000 California crime victims, largely made up of women and people of color, have announced a 10-point agenda outlining steps California should take to prioritize the needs of the state’s diverse crime victims. 

Released by the California chapter of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, the largest network of crime victims in the nation, the agenda calls on lawmakers across California to make immediate and significant investments in victim compensation, as well as violence intervention and violence prevention programs. It urges allocations from the state’s general fund of $115 million to both the California Violence Intervention Program for use by frontline service providers and $115 million to the California Victim Compensation Board to permanently stabilize victim compensation funding and end the over-reliance on fines and fees.

The agenda also calls for:

  • Expanding the rights of victims of crime by increasing legal protections for victims to prevent job and housing loss, expanding victims’ civil legal services to help all victims recover and ensuring dignity, respect and support for victims of unsolved crimes
  • Ending discrimination faced by many victims by expanding eligibility to victim services to all victims of crime and violence and eradicating racial disparities in access to compensation and services
  • Providing real help to victims by reaching more survivors in crises more quickly, covering the actual costs of recovery by increasing benefits and covering a diverse range of healing, treatment and support services, ensuring that trauma recovery services are available and investing in community-based victim services providers.

The agenda was released at a Town Hall led by Tinisch Hollins of Californians for Safety and Justice and Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. Panelists included Asm. David Chiu (D-San Francisco), as well as leaders from the Chinese Progressive Association, Futures Without Violence, Peace Over Violence, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, Black Women Revolt and Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence, and more. The state’s leading victims’ groups also sent a letter to leaders of the state legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Victims of Violent Crime in Los Angeles County Favor Investments in Crime Prevention Over Incarceration, New Survey Finds

March 4, 2021

County’s Criminal Justice System Fails to Support Survivors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2021 

CONTACT: Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice; (909) 261-1398; [email protected] 

LOS ANGELES — New survey reveals that a huge majority of victims of violent crime in Los Angeles County feel the criminal justice system failed them in their time of need and that justice system resources should be invested in crime prevention, not incarceration. The survey was conducted over a seven day period in early February by David Binder Research.

According to the responses of 724 crime survivors in the nation’s most populous county, fewer than three in 10 victims of violent crime receive victim support services. Most said they were not even aware of the existence of such services, despite a majority reporting they would have wanted services such as counseling, medical care and financial support.

The survey also shows that most victims of violent crime want changes to the criminal justice system that emphasize rehabilitation and crime prevention, rather than more incarceration. Large majorities support policies to shift resources away from incarceration and instead invest them in prevention, rehabilitation, and support services. Asked about criminal justice preferences, the vast majority of violent crime victims said they support community-based victim services, mental health crisis response, and violence prevention outreach workers as well as alternatives to incarceration and reducing sentences for people in prison that participate in rehabilitation.

“This data aligns with what we’ve known for many years, that the majority of survivors of violent crime believe that a justice system that simply responds to crime after it’s already occurred does nothing to prevent harm from occurring again in the future,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, herself a survivor of crime who has lost two brothers to gun violence. “The communities most affected by violence want increased investments in public health resources, violence prevention and rehabilitation that stop cycles of crime. Yet, public dialogue often excludes the voices of Black and Brown survivors, many of whom are most harmed by the failures of our public safety system and least helped by that same system. It’s critical that decision-makers hear our voices now. Because more than anything else, most crime survivors want what happened to them to never happen to anyone else again. Mass incarceration and more excessive spending on the criminal justice system won’t accomplish that.”               

According to the survey, 65 percent of respondents favored taking individual circumstances into account over automatically adding extra years onto a sentence because of past convictions. Sixty-one percent of respondents favor rehabilitation, mental health treatment and drug treatment over punishment through incarceration. An identical 61 percent said they favor shorter prison sentences and spending more money on prevention and rehabilitation over prison sentences that keep people in prison for as long as possible. And a whopping 69 percent of respondents said they favor solving neighborhood problems and stopping repeat crimes through prevention and rehabilitation, even if it means fewer convictions, over prosecuting crimes to get as many convictions and prison sentences as possible. 

In addition, according to the survey: 

  • 88 percent of victims support expanding community-based victim services to help more victims of violence get access to programs that help them with stability and recovery from trauma
  • 85 percent of victims support increasing the number of community-based violence prevention workers who mediate conflicts and help prevent young people from getting involved in gangs or gun violence
  • 82 percent of survivors favor alternatives to incarceration such as diversion, mental health treatment, restorative justice, and community services
  •  82 percent support expanding mental health crisis response so that emergency calls about psychiatric crises are handled by mental health experts instead of police
  • 80 percent are in support of reducing prison sentences for people in prison who participate in rehabilitation, mental health, substance abuse, educational, or vocational programs

The survey also found that just 21 percent of victims received help understanding the courts and legal system in the aftermath of their crime, only 25 percent received medical assistance or physical therapy, less than 30 percent received counseling or other mental health support and just 15 percent of victims received emergency or temporary housing.

“Our communities are in the midst of a violence and homicide crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and decades of systemic failure to advance real safety solutions in communities most harmed. We simply cannot afford to react in a way that just responds to harm and violence after it has already occurred,” said Hollins. “This is an issue that must transcend politics. Human lives are at stake. We must ensure we invest in the policies and approaches that science and data have proven to prevent violence and harm from occurring in the first place.”    

A memo outlining the survey results is available online here

About Californians for Safety and JusticeCalifornians for Safety and Justice (CSJ) is a nonprofit working with Californians from all walks of life to replace prison and justice system waste with common sense solutions that create safe neighborhoods and save public dollars. Through policy advocacy, grassroots mobilization, public education, alliances and support for local best practices, we promote strategies to stop the cycle of crime, reduce reliance on incarceration and build healthy communities. For more information, please visit: safeandjust.org

Senator María Elena Durazo Introduces Groundbreaking Legislation to Automatically and Permanently Seal Old Conviction Records in California

March 3, 2021

New Report Provides Clear Picture of Economic Harm of Pushing People Living with an Old Conviction Record Out of Workforce; California Loses Approximately $20 Billion Annually

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2021

CONTACT: Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif – Sen. María Elena Durazo on Wednesday introduced a groundbreaking piece of criminal justice reform legislation that would effectively seal old legal records in California. It would end the systemic disenfranchisement and employment barriers faced by millions of Californians living with a past conviction that disproportionately affects people of color and costs the state approximately $20 billion every year in economic activity.  

The bill, S.B. 731, would create a comprehensive process to automatically seal conviction and arrest records in the state of California once a person has fully completed their sentence and successfully gone two years without further contact with the justice system. Records of arrests that didn’t result in a conviction would also be automatically sealed.  

The bill would also provide a much-needed and major economic boost to California in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, curbing the estimated $20 billion in yearly gross domestic product that the state currently loses due to the widespread unemployment and underemployment of people living with a past conviction.

The bill is being sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice, Homeboy industries – the first time in the storied organization’s history it is sponsoring legislation – Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and the Los Angeles Regional Re-entry Project. 

“Preventing people with an old conviction record from ever being able to regain full citizenship status after fully completing their sentence and paying their debts makes us all less safe,” said Jay Jordan, vice president of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, the national sponsor organization of Californians for Safety and Justice. “We no longer can afford to undermine the strength of our state’s economy, destabilize families and communities, and maintain policies at odds with California’s core values of justice and fairness. We must enact new policies that prioritize our collective health and safety by enabling every Californian to contribute to our state and its economy, not perpetuate the leftover harm from failed criminal justice system policies of the past that voters have repeatedly rejected.”

In conjunction with the bill’s introduction, Californians for Safety and Justice and UNITE-LA released a new report, “Getting Back to Work: Revamping the Economy by Removing Past Records,” providing a clear picture of the scale of economic harm caused by these barriers faced by people living with an old conviction.

The report shows that in 2018:

  • 2.5 million working age Californians were living with a felony record
  • The state lost $20 billion (in 2021 dollars) in gross domestic product – the total value of goods produced and services provided – due to the barriers preventing people living with a past felony legal record from gaining full employment and contributing to the economy  
  • The Los Angeles region alone lost more than $9 billion from their GDP, and eight Bay Area counties lost over $4 billion from their economic output.
  • Five counties in the central valley region lost nearly $1.5 billion in GDP
  • Sacramento and three neighboring counties lost nearly $800 million from their GDP

 “Our conviction & arrest records system forces the people who go through it – our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters – to face obstacles for the rest of their lives, in every aspect of their lives,” said Senator Durazo. “The completion of a prison sentence should pave the way for a complete return to participate fully in society. But for millions of Californians, their conviction history turns into a lifelong sentence of limited access to employment, housing, education, and the ability to live a full, normal life and provide for their families.”

“Rather than keeping us safe, long-lasting post-conviction restrictions make it harder for Californians to rebuild productive and full lives,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “Sealing or ‘sunsetting’ old conviction records aligns with California voters’ repeated decisions to abandon failed criminal justice system policies that are responsible for the expansion of these old legal records, keeping the state on a path toward achieving real safety.”

Californians for Safety and Justice Names Tinisch Hollins as New Executive Director

March 2, 2021

Hollins Will be the First Black Woman and First Crime Survivor to Lead California’s Largest Criminal Justice Reform Advocacy Organization  

Jay Jordan named Alliance for Safety and Justice Vice President 

OAKLAND, Calif.Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ), California’s largest criminal justice reform advocacy organization today announced that Tinisch Hollins will be its new executive director. Hollins, a San Francisco native who previously led Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice in California as its state director, will be the first Black woman and first crime survivor to lead the organization responsible for many of California’s major criminal justice and community safety reforms. 

“When it comes to advocating for and delivering on a new vision for public safety, Californians deserve an empathetic, strategic leader who understands what’s at stake,” said Lenore Anderson, founder of Californians for Safety and Justice and president of Alliance for Safety and Justice, the national sponsor organization of CSJ. “Tinisch Hollins’ deep understanding of what communities in our state need to be safe and her long-term commitment to being a servant leader make her the right person to deliver safety for Californians. Tinisch can mobilize communities most impacted, and has proven that she can compel lawmakers to act. Countless California families will benefit from her leadership — and thousands already have.”

In her new role, Hollins will ensure that victims of crime are centered in conversations about public safety. She knows the weight of trauma and violence personally, having lost two of her brothers within five years to violence. First as the Bay Area chapter coordinator of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, and later as its California state director, Hollins successfully fought for increased protections and support for crime victims. Her leadership helped to pass  historic first-in-the-nation legislation that extended employment leave for all survivors of violence, as well as legislation permitting crime victims to terminate their leases if they no longer feel safe in their homes following a crime. Tinisch also played a pivotal leadership role in the defeat of Proposition 20, a regressive ballot measure on the 2020 California ballot that sought to repeal numerous successful criminal justice reforms. Prior to joining CSJ in 2019, Tinisch served in various leadership capacities in local government, including at the San Francisco Human Services Agency and in the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.  

Californians for Safety and Justice has played a major role in criminal justice reform victories in the state over the past decade, including:

  • Reducing California’s population of people incarcerated by roughly 50,000 by passing Propositions 47 and 57, as well as numerous other legislative changes
  • Securing funding for more than a dozen trauma recovery centers, which provide services to help underserved victims of violent crime to recover from trauma and regain stability
  • Expanding protections once available only to victims of domestic violence or sexual assault to all victims of violence, such as extended employment leave after the incident, and allowing victims of violence to break a lease to relocate so they can feel safe in their homes

“It’s an honor to lead this incredible organization, which has already accomplished so much in California,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “I’m looking forward to adding to our winning record for communities and solidifying California’s position as a national leader of criminal justice reform. There’s so much more we can still do to support communities and crime survivors, building a system better rooted in public health and safety. I’m hungry to get started.”  

CSJ’s current executive director, Jay Jordan, will move over to the national Alliance for Safety and Justice organization to serve as Vice President. After approximately two years as CSJ Executive Director, Jay ushered in nearly a dozen criminal justice reforms. He helped lead successful efforts to defeat Proposition 20, advocate for prison closures, and increase resources for reentry programming in the state. He also co-founded the TimeDone campaign, which organizes people living with past conviction records to eliminate the barriers to opportunity that block them from success. He will continue to support CSJ’s bold policy agenda in his new role as ASJ Vice President, working collaboratively with Tinisch to advance reforms. 

Anderson said: “Jay has been a fantastic leader for CSJ for the last two years and we look forward to seeing his leadership grow across the country.   

About Californians for Safety and Justice

Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ) is a nonprofit working with Californians from all walks of life to replace prison and justice system waste with common sense solutions that create safe neighborhoods and save public dollars. Through policy advocacy, grassroots mobilization, public education, alliances and support for local best practices, we promote strategies to stop the cycle of crime, reduce reliance on incarceration and build healthy communities. For more information, please visit: safeandjust.org

Californians for Safety and Justice Lauds Committee on Revision of the Penal Code Recommendations

February 9, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 9, 2021

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif. – Californians for Safety and Justice on Tuesday applauded the California Committee on Revision of the Penal Code’s initial recommendations to protect and enhance the safety and well-being of communities while limiting needlessly harsh and counter-productive prison sentences.

The Committee’s recommendations include

  • Ending mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes
  •  Limiting excessive sentence enhancement
  • Reforming parole rules
  • Ending longer punishment for people with mental illnes
  • Providing sentencing reconsideration after 15 years of incarceration

According to polling by David Binder Research last year, California voters overwhelmingly support ideas like these for safely reducing incarceration to curtail prison spending that would save billions of dollars. By a margin of more than two to one, voters support reducing incarceration for people determined to be low risk to public safety in order to close prisons and reduce the prison budget by $1 billion. And more than 7 in 10 state voters favor the review of sentences for people who have already served 10 or more years in prison.

In a 2017 report, Californians for Safety and Justice urged state leaders to reduce state imprisonment by 30,000 people, allowing California to close five prisons and save – conservatively – about $1.5 billion annually in state prison spending. The Legislative Analyst’s Office late last year echoed that call. These savings could be reallocated to more effective approaches aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of all California Communities, as outlined in the groundbreaking Blueprint for Shared Safety released by Californians for Safety and Justice in 2016.

The following can be attributed to Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“California still wastes more than $13 billion every year on ineffective prisons, and implementation of these important recommendations from the California Committee on Revision of the Penal Code would allow for a major and long-overdue rebalancing of our public safety investments. The unresolved drivers of crime will continue to plague our neighborhoods until and unless we stop overspending on incarceration and prisons and invest in proven strategies that successfully prevent crime from occurring in the first place. It  is also a public health imperative that these recommendations be implemented, given how the state’s overcrowded prison system has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and exacerbated community spread. There has never been a more important time to build out new safety priorities that are rooted in prevention, healing and community health and well-being. State lawmakers must harness the popular support for these recommendations to ensure they are enacted, advancing the health and safety of all Californians.” 

Californians for Safety and Justice Praises Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Proposed Budget for Making Critical Investments in Safety for All California Communities

January 8, 2021

Budget Contains More Than $1 Billion for Treatment and Crime Prevention, including Nearly $115 million in Prop. 47 Savings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2021

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Californians for Safety and Justice on Friday praised Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2021-2022 fiscal year budget for its investments in public safety. By prioritizing investments that will effectively meet the needs of our communities, California can address the underlying drivers of crime and prevent it, and ensure survivors of crime have the resources they need to heal.

The budget proposal released by Newsom Friday includes nearly $115 million in Proposition 47 savings. Each year, the money saved as a result of reduced incarceration from Proposition 47, which was passed overwhelmingly by state voters in 2014, is returned to local communities to fund treatment and mental health programs, truancy prevention programs and trauma recovery centers to help survivors of crime heal.

The proposed budget also contains a $750 million general fund allocation for competitive grants to counties for the acquisition of physical buildings to house the provision of mental health services, as well as the reallocation of more than $200 million in unused jail bond financing for the purchase or modification of community mental health facilities.

The proposed budget contains more than half a billion dollars for rehabilitative programming for people in prison who will be released, which is a doubling of the investment by the state in rehabilitation since 2012-2013.

Importantly, the budget recommits to shuttering the Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy by September of this year, as well as closing a second prison facility by the end of 2023. The budget reflects anticipated cost savings from the closure of Deuel at over $260 million over the next two fiscal years.

“The proposed budget released today by Gov. Newsom represents a stark departure from the failed ‘tough on crime’ approaches of the past that have never produced true safety or well-being in our communities, and reflects a commitment to pursuing strategies proven to more effectively prevent crime and harm from occurring in the first place,” said Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “The more than $100 billion we’ve needlessly poured into incarceration during the past decade alone has destabilized entire communities and fueled stubbornly-high recidivism rates. We can and must do better by pursuing approaches that science and data clearly show more effectively ensure safety for all Californians.”

For the second consecutive year, the governor’s proposed budget also contains a general fund allocation to the victim compensation fund to ensure it remains solvent and able to provide essential support for survivors of crime without having to rely on increased fines and fees imposed upon Californians by the courts and justice system.

“The resources provided by California’s victim compensation fund are imperative for ensuring that survivors of crime are able to heal,” said Tinisch Hollins, California state director for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “We are deeply appreciative of Gov. Newsom’s leadership and for his continued willingness to make certain that all crime survivors – and especially survivors from those communities most impacted by crime and violence every day – are able to access the assistance and support we need to recover.”

Californians for Safety and Justice Lauds Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Plan to Appoint Civil Rights Champion Shirley Weber as Secretary of State

December 23, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 22, 2020

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif. – Californians for Safety and Justice on Tuesday praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for reportedly planning to appoint Asm. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), the civil rights champion who has been the state legislature’s moral authority for the past eight years, as California’s next Secretary of State.

The following can be attributed to Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“The appointment of Asm. Weber as the first Black woman Secretary of State in California history marks a historic milestone in California’s ongoing work for justice and equality. During her tenure in the Legislature, Asm. Weber has been a tenacious leader and advocate for those whose voices have been left out or overlooked, and for making sure that everyone is afforded equal opportunity to pursue their dreams. Her appointment is a clear indication that Gov. Newsom is committed to pursuing those same ideals and putting California on the vanguard of justice. Representation matters, and it is a huge victory for all Californians to have Alex Padilla in the U.S. Senate representing a state that is 40 percent Latino, and now the hardest worker in the Legislature as our Secretary of State.”

California State Director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice to be Honored with Peace Over Violence Humanitarian Award

October 30, 2020

Tinisch Hollins Leads California’s Largest Statewide Network of Survivors of Crime

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

October 30, 2020

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]    

Tinisch Hollins, California state director for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, will be honored tonight as a “brave space builder in our community” by Peace Over Violence, one of California’s leading advocacy organizations for victims of sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence. 

Hollins will be presented with a special Humanitarian Award, along with actor Leah Aldridge and activist and founder of Futures Without Violence Ester Soler, during the annual Evening Over Violence event, Peace Over Violence’s largest yearly fundraiser. 

“I am deeply honored by this award, and by Peace Over Violence’s partnership and shared commitment to allowing the voices of survivors to be heard as we chart new pathways to healing and wholeness,” said Hollins. “For too long, the experiences of too many survivors of crime, especially those from communities that experience the most harm but receive the least help, have been ignored, and their needs have gone unmet. But a new and growing movement of survivors is beginning to change that reality. Justice must be coupled with access to healing and restoration to prevent harm from happening again and we look forward to continuing to walk with Peace Over Violence in this work.”

With more than 12,000 members statewide, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice is the largest network of survivors of crime in California. 

The event, which celebrates and honors individuals and our community, while also raising critical funds to support Peace Over Violence’s programs, has been reimagined this year as a three night virtual series that will take place tonight, Nov. 12 when Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis will Be honored, and Nov. 19, when Kimberlé Crenshaw and the African American Policy Forum will be honored. 

#ProgressNotPrisons Launches High Six-Figure Statewide Ad Campaign Exposing High Costs of Prison Spending across California

October 26, 2020

Billboards outside of nearly every state prison and throughout communities across state, along with food trucks, mobile billboards, and digital video ads, call attention to need for community investments as state struggles with COVID-19, over-incarceration, homelessness, more

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

October 21, 2020

CONTACT: Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif. – Today, Californians for Safety and Justice, the lead organizing group of the #ProgressNotPrisons campaign, announced a major bilingual advertising effort to help educate Californians about the effect of excessive prison spending on their communities and encourage them to vote in the 2020 election.

Through billboards, digital advertising, mobile billboards and food trucks, the ad campaign will highlight the $100 billion California spent on prisons in the last 10 years and $50 billion it spends each year on its criminal justice system, while simultaneously denying communities much-needed investment in schools, affordable housing, health care, and more.

The billboards appear outside of nearly all of the state’s prisons, as well as in high-traffic areas of Bakersfield, Fresno, Riverside, Stockton, San Bernardino and San Jose. The billboards seek to call attention to the need for investment in critical community resources, rather than in prisons – something California voters overwhelmingly support. The ad campaign seeks to raise awareness and generate conversation among the public and government officials about how to solve the state’s greatest challenges. 

The billboard design is available here

The digital video advertisement is available here (and in Spanish here).

“The staggering $100 billion California spent on prisons since 2010 has robbed communities of the investments they need to be healthy and safe – the types of investments that can prevent crime in the first place,” said Jay Jordan, Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “We cannot let extreme prison spending continue to eclipse our investments in schools, jobs, housing, healthcare, and other solutions vital to the progress of our communities.”

Californians for Safety and Justice Applauds Gov. Gavin Newsom for Being Champion of Criminal Justice Reforms with Broad Support across State

October 1, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 1, 2020

CONTACT: 

Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected] 

OAKLAND, Calif. – Californians for Safety and Justice on Thursday expressed appreciation to Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing into law and including in the state budget adopted by the Legislature earlier this year a host of new policies that move the state toward a more effective safety agenda. The policies reflect best practices that have support from Californians across the state. Together, the efforts will help to reform broken criminal justice system policies by reducing over-incarceration and prioritizing rehabilitation and reentry, while ensuring crime victims can access support to recovery.  

Among the bills that Newsom signed in recent days include:

  • A.B. 2992 (Weber) would extend unpaid employment leave protections to all survivors of violent crime and to all immediate family members of homicide victims. The bill would also expand acceptable forms of documentation to verify that a crime or abuse occurred so survivors of crime can qualify for victim compensation
  • S.B. 1190 (Durazo) would enable all victims of violent crime to break a lease and relocate if necessary within the first six months after a crime occurred.
  • A.B. 1950 (Kamlager) would put reasonable and evidence-based limits on probation terms in California, save hundreds of millions of dollars every year by reducing the number of people on probation who are sent back to prison for technical violations and reduce the caseloads of probation officers so they can more effectively do their jobs
  • A.B. 3234 (Ting) would create a court-initiated misdemeanor diversion program and lower the minimum age limitation for elderly parole to 50 for those who have served at least 20 years

Additionally, the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget that Newsom signed into law earlier this year included: 

  • A plan to close two state owned and operated prisons by 2023 – Newsom announced the planned closure of the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, Calif. last week
  • Significant reforms to the state’s parole system that will make it more focused on ensuring people on parole successfully reintegrate back into the community with a savings to the General Fund 
  • An investment in the state’s victim compensation fund that will ensure it remains solvent and able to continue operating at current levels.
  • Funds for automatic record relief enacted by AB 1076, co-sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice last year
  • The removal of barriers to college opportunities for Californians living with past criminal convictions 

The following can be attributed to Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“Gov. Newsom has taken significant steps toward ensuring that justice system reforms are enacted that align with the views of Californians from across the state and all walks of life. The gains that have been made in recent years prove that justice reforms can reduce over-incarceration and dangerous prison overcrowding, while making communities safer as crime rates remain at historically low levels. When we reduce the wasteful spending, investments can be directed to strengthening the safety and stability of local communities. There is still much work to be done, but Gov. Newsom’s commitment to increasing the safety, health and well-being of our communities sets us on the right path.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Expanding Employment Protections for All Survivors of Violent Crime

September 29, 2020

A.B. 2992 Makes All Survivors of Violence Eligible to Take Time Off Work Without Fearing Loss of Employment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

September 28, 2020

CONTACT:

Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected] 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into law a bill allowing all victims of violent crime to take time off work after a crime has occurred without having to worry about being penalized or fired.

Authored by Asm. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and sponsored by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, the largest network of survivors of crime in California and the nation, A.B. 2992 makes survivors of violent crime, as well as the immediate family members of homicide victims, eligible for unpaid employment leave protections. The bill also expands acceptable forms of documentation to verify that a crime occurred. 

California law had previously protected only victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking from being fired or discriminated against for taking time off work to secure a restraining order or protective order, access victims services or mental healthcare or take actions to ensure their safety. These important protections have now been expanded to all survivors of violent crime.  

A survey of crime survivors commissioned by Californians for Safety and Justice found that one in four California survivors missed work following the crime and two in three reported experiencing anxiety, stress or difficulty with sleeping, relationships or work. Half of survivors said it took more than six months after being victimized to recover. 

Studies also show that survivors of violent crime, and especially low income survivors, overwhelmingly need support meeting basic needs following a crime, including securing safe housing and maintaining stable employment. And a recent study by the Human Rights Law Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the majority of parents of homicide victims report difficulty returning to work and more than one in four family members had quit their jobs or were fired for missing work within two years of their loved one’s murder.

“All survivors of violent crime and their loved ones must be allowed to take time off work to secure their safety and access victim services to recover following a crime,” said Tinisch Hollins, California state director for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “It was never okay for a survivor of violent crime to have to choose between their safety and financial security, especially during this time of pandemic and increased financial instability. Survivors of violent crime will too often remain in unsafe circumstances and not get the help they need because they are afraid of losing their job and income, exacerbating cycles of harm and trauma. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to Gov. Newsom for signing this bill and ensuring victims of violent crime can do what they need to do for their safety and well-being.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Enabling Survivors of Violent Crime to Find Safe Housing

September 28, 2020

S.B. 1190 Allows Victims of Violent Crime to Terminate a Lease After a Crime

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

September 28, 2020

CONTACT:

Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected] 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into law a bill ensuring all survivors of violent crime and their families are able to seek safe housing in the aftermath of a crime. 

S.B. 1190, authored by Sen. María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) and sponsored by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, the largest network of crime survivors in California and the nation, allows victims of violent crimes and their families and household members to terminate a lease without penalty within the first six months of a crime occurring. The bill also prohibits landlords from discriminating against potential tenants who previously had legally broken a lease. 

Previously, only survivors of domestic violence, stalking, elder abuse or human trafficking were allowed to terminate a lease without penalty if they needed to relocate following a crime. But survivors of other types of violent crime – including gun violence, armed home invasion or co-victims of homicide – did not have those same protections if they needed to relocate. 

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused heightened financial insecurity, it is especially imperative that crime survivors have avenues for relocating without penalties if their safety depends on it. More than 40 percent of respondents to a 2019 statewide poll of crime survivors in California commissioned by Californians for Safety and Justice said they would have wanted emergency or temporary housing following the crime. Only six percent said they received it. Staying in the home may increase the risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and expose survivors to further violence. 

“No one who has been the victim of a violent crime should ever be forced to make an untenable choice between their physical or emotional safety and the long term financial consequences of breaking a lease, said Tinisch Hollins, California state director for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “The security of a stable and safe home is a fundamental human need that becomes even more important following a violent crime. Penalizing survivors of violent crime whose safety requires immediate relocation only exacerbates cycles of crime and re-victimization. We are deeply grateful that Gov. Newsom has signed this bill and enshrined into law a more comprehensive approach to public safety that will help make sure all survivors of violent crime are able to seek safe places to live.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Announces First Steps Toward Closing State Prison in Tracy

September 25, 2020

Shuttering of Deuel Vocational Institution a Milestone in California’s Ongoing Effort to Safely Reduce Incarceration, Prioritize Investments in Prevention, Community Safety and Well-Being

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

September 25, 2020

CONTACT:

Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected]

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy will be the first state owned and operated prison to be closed as part of a plan outlined in the state budget signed into law in June to shutter two prisons by 2023.  

The budget proposes closing one facility beginning in 2021-2022 and a second facility beginning in 2022-2023, while maintaining Newsom’s plan to close all private, in-state contract correctional facilities for male prisoners in 2020-2021.

The following can be attributed to Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“Californians from all walks of life – rural, urban, conservative and liberal – all agree: spending billions upon billions of dollars on prisons is wasteful. It harms safety and takes money away from prevention, schools and economic development. Many decades of out-of-control spending on prisons has been undermining public safety by exacerbating recidivism and the destabilization of communities while failing to stop cycles of crime. We congratulate Gov. Newsom for making good on his commitment to rebalance our safety budget in a way that aligns with what all Californians want.”

Survivors of Crime Oppose Proposition 20, Request Mayors of California’s Largest Cities Join Them

September 10, 2020

November Ballot Initiative, Backed by State’s Largest Law Enforcement Associations, Would Increase Spending on Prisons, Widen Disparities and Reduce Investments in Communities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
September 10, 2020

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice,
(909) 261-1398; [email protected]  

OAKLAND, Calif. – Several of the largest crime victims’ organizations in California sent a letter on Thursday to the mayors of the state’s 13 largest cities, asking that they stand with crime survivors in opposition to Proposition 20. The letter coincided with a press conference held by crime victims and leading district attorneys from across the state in opposition to the November statewide ballot initiative that would increase costly and disparate incarceration while slashing investments in services to help survivors

The letter was signed by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, California’s largest network of survivors of crime, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and Ruby’s Place, which provides survivors of human trafficking and domestic abuse crisis services, shelter, counseling and more.  

Sent to the mayors of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, Santa Ana and Stockton, the letter says Proposition 20 would return California to the days when it was a leader in mass incarceration and failed to prevent crime from occurring in the first place or better met the needs of crime survivors. 

Already, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf have responded by saying they oppose Proposition 20.

Read the full letter here.

“As crime survivors and those who work on their behalf every day, we support policies to prevent crime, reduce recidivism and address barriers that prevent healing,” the letter reads. “More than anything, most victims want assurances that what happened to them will never happen again – to them or anyone else.” 

Proposition 20 would undercut or eliminate entirely the hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings already realized from recent justice system reforms that have safely reduced incarceration in California. That money has been reinvested in local communities and, among other things, funded the creation of more than a dozen trauma recovery centers up and down the state that provide survivors the wrap around services they need to heal.  

An analysis released this week shows that statewide crime rates are lower today than at any other point in recorded history, yet only one in five people who survived a crime in the past 10 years received the help they needed to recover from the trauma of the crime. 

In the letter, crime victims indicate that evidence shows investments in community health, not incarceration, more effectively prevent crime. The letter also makes clear that thousands of Californians are struggling with untreated mental illness, addiction and trauma – among the most well-known drivers of crime and health vulnerabilities. 

“We believe in treatment programs and addiction services to break the cycle of crime,” the letter reads. “We believe mental health challenges should be handled…outside of traditional courts and prisons.”

Passage of Proposition 20 would result in as many as 10,000 more people being locked up every year in our state’s jails and prisons than are currently incarcerated. 

In addition to crime survivors, Proposition 20 is opposed by more than 100 leading labor, civil rights and business organizations including the California Teachers Association, Chicana Latina Foundation, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California Labor Federation, United Domestic Workers of America, California Correctional Peace Officers Association, California Fire Chiefs Association, United Way of California, Sierra Club, California Black Chamber of Commerce, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (CA) and the Chief Probation Officers of California, among others. 

“We cannot and must not turn back the clock,” the letter to the mayors reads. “We ask you to help us continue the progress we have made together in California by standing with us opposition to Proposition 20 and a return to the failed policies of the past.” 

A recording of today’s press conference announcing the letter and featuring survivors and some of the state’s leading district attorneys and other law enforcement officials is available here.

$30 Million Public-Private Partnership Launched to Support Returning Citizens, as California Urgently Reduces Prison Populations to Curb Impact of COVID-19

August 27, 2020

Philanthropies and nonprofits partner with the State of California and Governor Gavin Newsom to provide much-needed reentry services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 27, 2020 CONTACT: Robin Rettmer, Amity Foundation, [email protected] SACRAMENTO, Calif. –

Today, as COVID-19 spreads through prisons and jails, philanthropies and nonprofits joined the State of California and Governor Gavin Newsom to announce “Returning Home Well”, a new public-private partnership that provides essential services — like housing, health care, treatment, transportation, direct assistance, and employment support — for Californians returning home from prison after July 1, 2020.

These are individuals that have either met their natural release date or are being released on an expedited timeline due to COVID-19. The State announced an initial commitment of $15 million, which will be matched by philanthropic contributions for a total goal of $30 million.

“In these unprecedented times, we are committed to providing essential services to those who are returning home to their families and communities,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. “It is imperative to our public health and public safety, and it is a testament to the generosity of spirit that runs so deep across our state, that so many of our California-based philanthropies and nonprofit partners are stepping up to help provide these critical supports.”

“We applaud Governor Newsom for investing in this long-needed infrastructure to help keep people and families safe during and after the pandemic,” said Jay Jordan, Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “Supporting reentry services for people coming home is a well-researched and proven model for reducing recidivism and helping people achieve success in their journey home.”

In recent months, COVID-19 cases have risen dramatically among California’s prison population. As in other confined spaces, risk of infection — among those incarcerated and prison staff — is extremely high. In response, the State of California has taken important, life-saving steps to expedite the release of over 5,000 individuals who were already on track to go home, all with less than a year left to serve.

However, those returning are often left without essential services that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and its economic fallout. This new public-private partnership between several state departments, philanthropy, and frontline reentry services providers ensures that people have the support they need for a safe, healthy, and successful reintegration. “We’re proud to support a public-private partnership that asserts the need for justice reform with a racial equity lens”, said Dr. Robert K. Ross, MD, President and CEO of The California Endowment.

“We must strive for a justice system that focuses on health care and support services as the first options, instead of on the approach of incarceration which has failed so many. Our California communities need and deserve to thrive in a healthy environment free from trauma.” “People impacted by the justice system are profoundly and disproportionately at risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19-related illnesses,” added Dr. Priscilla Chan, Co-Founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

“We not only need to reduce our prison population, we also need to provide significant and ongoing support to returning citizens so they, their families, and communities can stay safe and thrive over the long-term.” Recently, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation projected that a large percentage of individuals set to come home will have the need for housing assistance and coordination of post-release services.

Rates of homelessness among regular releases have risen from a low of 13 percent last August to 15.5 percent in August 2020, and formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public.

This makes the need for reentry support in the pandemic environment even more critical. “CDCR understands how vitally important it is to expand reentry programs for the incarcerated population returning to their communities,” CDCR Director of Division of Rehabilitative Programs Brant Choate said. “Ensuring formerly incarcerated persons have the housing and tools they need to focus on living a better life when they get out are key to successful community transition, good public safety, and ultimately help save taxpayer dollars.”

Across California, hundreds of community-based organizations — like A New Way of Life, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Center for Employment Opportunities, Homeboy Industries, HealthRIGHT 360, WestCare California, and more — are working tirelessly to provide assistance across California. With a $15 million commitment from Governor Newsom and funding from private philanthropy, resources are going to organizations providing transportation home from prison, quarantine housing, emergency supportive housing, residential treatment, access to health care, employment services, direct assistance, and more.

Amity Foundation is serving as the hub for housing and services delivered by a network of frontline organizations across the state. “Over the last four months, we have seen the impact that safe housing, job training, and other reentry services can have for returning citizens,” said Sam Schaeffer, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Employment Opportunities. “Despite the retracting economy, we’ve seen people thrive when given real, meaningful support.

That’s what this partnership is about — giving people a strong foundation to stand on coming out of one of the most challenging periods of their lives.” Over $26 million of the $30 million goal has been committed and services are already being provided to returning citizens.

Foundations and individual donors aligning funding for this effort include the Meadow Fund, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Rosenberg Foundation, The California Endowment, Heising-Simons Foundation, Future Justice Fund, Art for Justice Fund, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Open Society Foundations, The California Wellness Foundation, Ford Foundation, Agnes Gund, and Kaitlyn & Mike Krieger.

“This moment requires bold leadership, and we thank Governor Newsom and our partners in philanthropy for joining together to support returning citizens in reclaiming their lives,” said Tim Silard, President of the Rosenberg Foundation.

“Reentry supports are proven and critical to helping people reintegrate back into our communities.” “Expediting release is necessary, but so is ensuring that services are available in a way that supports those returning home to achieve successful outcomes,” said Doug Bond, CEO of the Amity Foundation. “Supporting this type of service is an essential piece of a much broader, long-term public health and social progress solution.”

Statewide Campaign Launches to Educate Californians on How $100 Billion in Excessive Prison Spending Locks State Out of Critical Investments, Encourage Voter Registration & Participation

August 14, 2020

California Spends Astounding $50 Billion Every Year on Criminal Justice System; $100 Billion Spent on Prisons Since 2010 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 13, 2020

CONTACT: 

Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected] 

OAKLAND, Calif. – A new campaign focused on solutions to California’s economic, health and safety challenges launched a statewide public education effort about California’s extreme annual spending of $50 billion on its criminal justice system. The campaign, #ProgressNotPrisons, is uniting the state’s various stakeholders to raise awareness about the lost investments caused by the state’s $100 billion in prison spending since 2010. It will contrast California spending on the criminal justice system with the need to invest in health care, jobs, schools, mental health, crime victim services and other essential programs. The campaign will elevate the need to support the important work of those in the public health, housing, labor, and education sectors to achieve progress in the state. In addition to multi-sector advocates and organizations, it will also include elected officials and the state’s largest network of crime survivors. 

The campaign is running video ads across the state and staging billboard ads on freeways in between some of the state’s prisons, while encouraging voter registration and participation.

See the video ad here: https://youtu.be/sWI7e9hy4kg 

See the billboard here: https://safeandjust.org/wp-content/uploads/PNP_Billboards.png 

The #ProgressNotPrisons campaign, organized by Californians for Safety and Justice, shows how the excessive spending on failed prisons takes away resources from health and safety solutions for communities, and encourages residents to register to vote. 

“It is tragic for our children, seniors and families that our state has spent $100 billion on prisons since 2010, taking resources away from what we need to be healthy and safe,” said Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “Every additional billion dollars spent on prisons is one that could’ve been invested in prevention to stop the cycle of crime, health care, education, and programs that address homelessness, addiction and mental illness. Californians working on the frontlines to solve our greatest challenges are coming together to say that we can no longer afford to spend more and more billions of dollars on prisons. We need progress, not prisons, and we must engage in our civic duty by registering to vote and casting our ballots.” 

In addition to organizations from across the state, the campaign will be supported by music artists, athletes and other entertainers. Its launch is supported by Grammy-nominated recording artist, John Forté, who has been recognized for his work with multi-platinum hip-hop group, The Fugees. The campaign’s video ad features an original score and voice over from Forté.

Forte stated: “#ProgressNotPrisons is an opportunity for California to lead by example in criminal justice reform by prioritizing families, healthcare, and safety for our communities, rather than continuing to invest billions of dollars in a cruel, biased and broken prison system. It’s a fundamental choice: progress or prisons? This moment in history could not be more important.”

If California redirected just 1% of the $50 billion spent on its criminal justice system each year, the state could invest in:

  • Restoring health care coverage to more than half of the estimated 2.1 million Californians who have lost their health care during the pandemic as of mid-May
  • Providing COVID-19 treatment for 16,000 people, including hospital stays
  • Maintaining 11,000 EMTs or 4,000 nurses, at a time when 1.4 million healthcare workers throughout the country lost their jobs during the month of April alone
  • Providing shelter to nearly half of California’s estimated 108,000 unsheltered homeless residents, at a time when an estimated 5.3 million residents are at risk of eviction
  • Preserving 6,000 elementary school teachers
  • Paying for public education for 41,000 K-12 students
  • Supporting annual tuition and fees for 62,000 university students, nearly one out of every four incoming freshmen

 “We can no longer accept increased spending on prisons when our fundamental health and safety needs require more investment,” said Sen. Holly Mitchell (SD30-Los Angeles). “This excessive spending on prisons takes away from investments in our shared priorities: solving our state’s biggest challenges and prioritizing what Californians need to be healthy and safe.”

#ProgressNotPrisons will focus on weekly themes that highlight the solutions to the state’s challenges that California could invest in instead of spending more on prisons. The themes include crime victim services, schools, jobs and the economy vs. prisons, health care, mental health and addiction treatment, among others. 

“As millions of Californians face hardships from COVID-19 and, at the same time, raise their voices with a renewed call for greater racial, social and economic justice, we need to ensure that equity is at the center of our state’s spending,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). “That means California must take a fresh look at how every dollar is spent. By investing in solutions, not prisons, we can provide a better future for every Californian.”

“The State can’t keep spending so excessively on prisons – especially at a time when we simply cannot afford it,” said Asm. Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland). “Increasing prison spending is the last thing we should do when funding is at risk for schools, jobs, housing, health care and other solutions that make our neighborhoods safer.” 

“Spending billions of dollars to incarcerate a disproportionate amount of Black and Brown people is just another example of systemic racism,” said Daniel Forkkio, chief executive officer of Represent Justice. “This initiative is a reminder of the shocking amount of resources that go into California’s broken carceral system, which could be better used for community investments that support true public health and safety. Represent Justice is proud to be a part of #ProgressNotPrisons and looks forward to amplifying the untold stories of families who are impacted by the justice system and envisioning a more just future for all Californians.” 

Californians for Safety and Justice Calls Decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom to Release Thousands of People in Response to Outbreak of COVID-19 in State Prisons A Step in Right Direction

July 10, 2020

Safely Reducing Overcrowding in State Prison System a Public Health Imperative as Number of Cases, Deaths Continue to Rise, But More Action Needed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

July 10, 2020 

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice,
(909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced a plan to release 8,000 more people from the state prison system in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in prison facilities up and down the state, including the San Quentin state prison where more than 1,300 people incarcerated have contracted the virus and at least seven people have died. 

Most of the COVID-19 infections at San Quentin have been reported in the past few weeks, after a disastrous decision by corrections officials to transfer prisoners from the California Institute for Men in Chino, where a documented outbreak of COVID-19 had occurred, to San Quentin. Now, nearly half of the people incarcerated at San Quentin have contracted COVID-19.

Earlier this spring, Newsome ordered the release of 3,500 people in prison serving time for non-violent, non-serious offenses and who were within 60 days of their planned release date. The state’s prison population continues to far exceed the prison system’s design capacity, however, creating a dangerous environment that is allowing the virus to spread rapidly. 

To date, nearly 2,500 people in California prisons have tested positive for the virus, while 31 people incarcerated have died. 

The following can be attributed to Jay Jordan executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“The decision today by Gov. Newsom to ramp up safe prison releases is a credit to the advocacy of people and organizations throughout the state who have demanded clear action to protect public health and safety. It’s ironic that California has a moratorium on the death penalty, yet people are being killed in prisons by way of COVID. There is a moral imperative for bolder action to reduce overcrowding in our prisons. Too many people are locked up for too long by a bloated system that spreads poor health across California communities up and down the state. California must release people who are unnecessarily incarcerated and transform our safety priorities, so the core needs of communities that allow them to be safe are met and the number of people sent to prison in the first place is reduced.”  

Survivors of Crime Celebrate Introduction of Groundbreaking Bill Eliminating Barriers to State Support for Victims of Police Brutality

July 7, 2020

AB 767 Would Be First Bill in Nation to Eliminate Barriers to Victim Compensation That Lock Too Many Survivors of Color, Police Violence Victims and Others Out of Critical Support 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
July 7, 2020

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice, (909) 261-1398; [email protected] 

OAKLAND, Calif. – California’s largest network of crime survivors on Tuesday lauded a first-in-the-nation proposal introduced last week by Asm. Tim Grayson (D-Martinez) that would eliminate barriers to victim compensation faced by victims of police brutality and other violent crimes. 

The bill, A.B. 767, would end California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB) denials of the support to victims, based on confusing language that allows them to be blamed for their own death or injury, police reports and conclusions as the only judge of victimization, or based on an old conviction history.  

These restrictions lock many victims of color out of the needed support for medical bills, funeral and burial expenses and counseling. Victims of police violence and their families are typically excluded entirely from the program. (CalVCB) can deny applications if it finds “denial is appropriate due to…the involvement of the person whose injury or death gives rise to the application” or if it finds the survivor “failed to cooperate reasonably” with law enforcement. 

This is particularly perverse for survivors of police violence and the loved ones of people killed by police since a police report documenting the victimization is usually elusive. The very law enforcement official responsible for the injury or death can exert influence over whether a victim is denied support. These policies can also entrench racist perceptions that disregard the recognition of some victims, disproportionately harming Black survivors and other victims of color. Recent analyses of victim compensation denial data in other states have found those that apply subjective “contributory misconduct” exclusions, and conviction-based restrictions, deny Black victims and families at disproportionate rates.

The bill would also:

  •  Bar denial of a victim compensation application based solely on the contents or absence of a police report
  • Allow CalVCB to rely on documentation other than a police report to determine a crime occurred, like a report from a mental health provider
  • Bar denials for non-cooperation with law enforcement if the survivor has taken actions to support their safety and healing, like seeking medical or mental health treatment 
  • Change the definition of “crime” in compensation law to ensure eligibility for compensation is not dependent on whether there is an arrest or persecution

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, California state director for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice:

“A.B. 767 takes a comprehensive approach to changing policies that have served only to lock too many survivors out of victim compensation for too long. For decades, crime survivors, and survivors of color in particular, have been leading calls to eliminate barriers and ensure survivors of all violence, including police violence, can receive compensation. In addition to leaving entire communities with no resources for addressing trauma, these policies have served to entrench racist perceptions of survivors as “deserving” or “underserving,” disproportionately denying Black survivors and other people of color access to victim services. This must end, and we are proud to stand with Asm. Grayson in this fight.” 

Additional information about the bill is available here.

As Legislature Confronts COVID Crisis in Prisons, New Report Outlines Strategies to Safely Reduce Prison Crowding with Significant Voter Support

July 1, 2020

Recent Outbreaks at San Quentin and Other Prisons Underscore Urgency to Prevent Virus Spread from Prisons and Keep Communities Safe as Report Identifies Tens of Thousands of People Who Could be Considered for Safe Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 1, 2020

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice,
(909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif. – As the California Senate Public Safety Committee holds a hearing on COVID-19 in the state’s prisons, Californians for Safety and Justice released a new report Wednesday with voter-supported options to safely reduce the state prison population. The report identifies tens of thousands of people who could be considered for safe release to reduce crowding in prisons during a health crisis that threatens to spread COVID-19. The incarceration reduction options would also decrease wasteful prison spending in the face of a record budget deficit. It also highlights how these options are supported by wide majorities of likely voters in the state, based on a recent poll by nationally-respected public opinion research firm, David Binder Research.

The report, “How California Can Cut Prison Spending, Protect Health and Education Spending and Improve Public safety,” comes as prisons and communities across the state are experiencing new Coronavirus outbreaks, and underscores the urgency with which the state must continue to reduce prison crowding. 

“At a time when California faces an unprecedented public health crisis, massive budget deficits and popular calls to create a more racially equitable justice system, it is crucial that state policymakers take bold steps to continue to reduce the number of people inside of California’s overcrowded prisons,” said Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “By reducing overincarceration and the prison budget, we can protect communities from COVID and provide funding for local public safety programs that better meet the health and safety needs of our communities.” 

According to the report, there are five main policy options for further reducing the prison population safely in order to cut back wasteful spending on failed prisons and address the ongoing threat the spread of COVI-19 in prisons poses to the entire state:

1.     Reduce incarceration of people who are low risk to public safety: According to a risk assessment used by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 49 percent of institutional population (63,000 people) were assessed to be low risk to reoffend for a violent crime.

2.     Resentence individuals in prison who are elderly and/or medically frail: 19,000 people in prison (about 15 percent of the prison population) are aged 55 and over. Research shows that the likelihood of people in this age group committing a new crime can be as low as 2 percent. 

3.     Revise the Three Strikes law to reduce extreme sentencing: There are 33,000 people sentenced to prison under the Three Strikes Law, 18,000 of whom were sentenced for a nonviolent offense. 

4.     Require wider use of alternatives to incarceration and strengthen local public safety systems: The latest data shows that 37,000 people sentenced to prison have a mental health challenge. 

5.     Create a task force required to consider multiple options for reducing prison spending

Despite a number of reforms enacted over the past decade in California that have significantly reduced the state’s prison population, there are still more people in California’s prisons than they were designed to safely hold and spending on prisons has continued to increase. Prison spending is expected to hit an all time high of $13 billion this year. 

The statewide polling, completed in May 2020, shows there is wide support among California voters for continuing to reduce incarceration and prioritizing investments in schools, public health and other key services for communities. According to the polling, voters support releasing people deemed a low risk to public safety by a two-to-one margin, nearly eight in 10 voters support the release of people in prison who are elderly or medically frail, voters support further revisions to the Three Strikes law by a three-to-one margin, and more than seven in 10 voters support the increased use of alternatives to incarceration, especially if the savings from reduced incarceration were to be reallocated to schools, hospitals and other vital programs.   

“It’s clear voters believe a thoughtful reallocation of public safety dollars to better prioritize prevention and healing should be a cornerstone of building safe communities and stopping the cycles of crime,” said Jordan. “By continuing to reduce the state’s prison population we not only will be responding to the urgent crisis of COVID-19 but we will also begin to sustain the resources needed to build a strong and inclusive safety framework for all Californians.”

As Nation Reckons with Racial Injustice, New Ad Urges Corporations, Police Unions to Withdraw November Ballot Initiative That Would Increase Prison Spending and Worsen Racial Disparities

June 23, 2020

Safeway and Ralph’s Have Joined Forces With Some of State’s Largest Police Unions to Bankroll Initiative That Would Increase Incarceration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
June 23, 2020

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice,
(909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif. – A new radio and online advertisement released this week urges corporations and law enforcement unions to withdraw their support for a November statewide ballot initiative that would cost California as much as $450 million every year by increasing the state’s prison population. The measure would put more people in prison, with a disproportionate impact on communities of color, while taking away resources from programs in these communities. 

The advertisement highlights that the initiative, which is estimated to significantly increase the number of people incarcerated and funnel billions of dollars into law enforcement, is at odds with growing calls across the state and nation to shift dollars away from the criminal justice system and back to local communities.  

“As Americans confront injustice, why are corporations and police unions pushing an initiative to massively increase prison spending?” the ad says. “Tell backers to withdraw the prison spending scam.” 

Proponents have until June 25 to withdraw the measure from the ballot. 

“In recent years, California has proven that you can significantly reduce incarceration and the amount of money we waste on failed prisons, and redirect those hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen the safety and well being of our communities,” said Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, whose partner organization, ASJ Action Fund, released the ad. “At a time when the state faces a record budget deficit and there’s broad support for the need to reduce spending on prisons and the criminal justice system, an initiative that would reverse California’s progress to send incarceration and prison spending skyrocketing should be a non-starter.” 

The Prison Spending Initiative is being funded by nearly $3 million in campaign contributions from grocers like Albertson’s Safeway and some of the state’s largest police unions, including the Police Officers Research Association of California, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and the Los Angeles Police Protective League. 

The initiative would prohibit people in prison from rehabilitating themselves before release, incarcerate people for the lowest-level offenses, and return people to prison for non-criminal violations of probation. According to a report released last week by the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the initiative would cost taxpayers as much as $457 million annually in increased incarceration costs.