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.

Budget Priorities

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.