2013 Session Overview

Californians for Safety and Justice was proud to support several pieces of legislation in 2013:

Passed Legislation

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

Vetoed Legislation

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