Musician Common Adds Voice to Juvenile Justice Push in California Legislature

August 21, 2017

Artist joins effort to update Miranda protections and end life without parole sentences for young people

SACRAMENTO – Hip hop recording artist, actor, film producer and poet Common adds his voice to the campaign to reform California’s juvenile justice system with the Imagine Justice concert at the Capitol Mall today, Monday, Aug. 21, and meetings with legislators and youth on Tuesday, Aug. 22.

Common joins youth advocates, criminal justice groups and current and former law enforcement and corrections officials to support the passage of Senate Bills 394 and 395, two bills in the #EquityAndJustice package authored by Sens. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles). He will also speak in support of Senate Bill 10 by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, which Senators Lara and Mitchell are also joint authoring.

“Harsh punishment and false confessions breed hopelessness and represent a failure of our justice system,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “Senate Bills 394 and 395 are common sense reforms that will invest in young people’s recovery not their incarceration. I hope hearing from Common and young people who are overcoming huge odds will inspire legislators to share our dream of equity and justice and vote yes on Senate Bill 394 and 395 in the Assembly.”

Mitchell agreed and urged people to listen to the children’s stories with an open mind and heart and to remember the role entertainers can play in helping bring about social change.

“There is a rich legacy of African American entertainers who've lent their voices and resources to the fight for social justice: Harry Belafonte, Eartha Kitt, Ruby Dee and Ozzie Davis and, of course, Paul Roberson were stalwarts in the fight for civil rights and racial equality,” Senator Holly Mitchell said. “Common and the new generation of ‘woke’ entertainers are speaking up and out on behalf of men and women of color who are disproportionately represented in a criminal justice system that is simply UN-just and UN-equal. I applaud their efforts.”

“The truth is today, under the cash bail system, if you can write a check, victims don’t matter,” said Senator Bob Hertzberg, principal author on Senate Bill 10. “Everyone agrees the cash bail system is broken, because it is based on people’s bank accounts, not how dangerous they are. We need a system that prioritizes public safety and restores justice to the pretrial process, making sure everyone arrested is assessed on his or her risk and treated the same, regardless of background or income level.”

Senate Bill 394 would bring California into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court Montgomery v. Louisiana decision that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life without parole — by allowing those currently sentenced to be eligible for parole hearings after 25 years of incarceration. The U.S. is the only country in the world that imposes life without parole on people under 18, and California leads the nation in people sentenced to this unconstitutional and harmful punishment.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions aren’t optional,” the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in support of SB 394.

Senate Bill 395 would update Miranda rights for youth by requiring those under the age of 18 to consult with legal counsel before they waive their constitutional rights in interrogations with police. Research has shown that young people are much more likely to confess to crimes they did not commit, and SB 395 will help prevent false confessions and improper convictions that can result.

SB 394 and 395 were both passed by the California Senate and await votes by the California Assembly before they can go to Gov. Brown for consideration.

Senate Bill 10, the California Money Bail Reform Act of 2017, aims to replace a pretrial process that often forces people of modest means to remain in jail until a court can determine their innocence or guilt but allows the wealthy to go free. SB 10 would safely reduce the number of people being held in jail awaiting trial and ensure that those who are not a threat to public safety or at risk of fleeing are not held simply for their inability to afford bail. The bill would require, except when a person is arrested for specified violent felonies, that a pretrial services agency conduct a risk assessment and prepare a report that makes recommendations on conditions of release for the person pretrial. The legislation has been endorsed by more than 100 different organizations and the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle and Mercury News. Sen. Hertzberg and Assemblymember Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, explained their proposal in an op-ed published in May in the Los Angeles Daily News. Senate Bill 10 is awaiting review by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 

About the #EquityAndJustice bill package

SB 394 and 395 are two of six bills jointly authored by Mitchell and Lara that address how California’s criminal justice system treats youth and young adults. The two Democrats unveiled the measures March 20 at a press conference that can be viewed HERE. Besides SB 394 and 395, the remaining bills in the #EquityAndJustice package are:

Senate Bill 180 – Drug Sentence Enhancements
This dollar-saving reform measure is a modest step toward enacting the bipartisan movement to end wasteful incarceration spending in favor of community reinvestment by amending the code section that doubles or triples the sentence for specified nonviolent drug offenses. Status: To be voted on the Assembly floor.

Senate Bill 190 – Ending Juvenile Fees
This would eliminate burdensome administrative fees for youth involved in the juvenile justice system and their families. Status: To be reviewed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

SB 355 – No Court Fees for the Innocent
This provides that only those who are convicted of a crime are required to reimburse the courts for legal counsel fees. Status: Governor Brown signed into law on July 10.

Senate Bill 393 – Sealing of Arrest Records
Senate Bill 393 seals arrest records and remove barriers to employment for those arrested but not convicted of a crime and is sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. Status: To be reviewed by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Lara is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was first elected to the Legislature in 2010. He represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 33, which includes Long Beach and the Southeast Los Angeles cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, South Gate, and much of Los Angeles. More at www.senate.ca.gov/lara

Sen. Mitchell is chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. A member of the Legislature for more than six years,  she represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 30, which includes Culver City and much of Los Angeles. See a map of Mitchell’s district that includes a demographic breakdown of its residents and more HERE. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/Mitchell

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