Gov. Brown signs five #EquityAndJustice bills to promote prevention, rehabilitation, family cohesion
Includes juvenile justice bills to end fees for the innocent, update Miranda rights, and allow parole for youthful offenders
SACRAMENTO – Gov. Brown today signed the five remaining bills in the #EquityAndJustice package, continuing bipartisan reform of California’s juvenile and adult justice systems.
Along with Senate Bill 355, which Brown signed in July, the new laws comprise an #EquityAndJustice package authored jointly by Los Angeles-area Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly Mitchell and introduced last March to promote crime prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.
Today’s actions cap months of activity by young people who testified in Sacramento and a free concert for 25,000 at the State Capitol by the artist and musician Common in support of long-overdue criminal justice reforms.
“The Equity and Justice laws Gov. Brown signed take a greatly needed step toward restoring the value of rehabilitation in our justice system,” Senator Lara said. “Science is clear, young people are different, and as such have the capacity to change and become productive members of society. These Equity and Justice laws will give them that opportunity.”
“Sadly, too many poor kids and kids of color today are more likely to end up as victims of the juvenile justice system,” Senator Mitchell said. “If one believes that our children will be tomorrow’s leaders then we must look through a child-development lens. These bills help provide the appropriate resources and policies to get them there.”
Stories from youth overcoming odds and new research drive calls for change
Sens. Lara and Mitchell introduced the Equity and Justice bills in March in response to new research into youth resiliency and young people’s powerful stories about the negative impact of incarceration.
Senate Bill 395 will help prevent false confessions by requiring young people age 15 and younger consult with an attorney before they waive their Miranda rights.
Jerome Dixon, who served 21 years for a crime he did not commit, spoke about enduring a 25-hour interrogation as a minor. “On the 25th hour I was nothing more but an empty shell of a child, and I caved in and told them what they wanted to hear,” he told KQED radio.
SB 394 allows young people sentenced to life without parole to have a parole hearing after 25 years, complying with a recent U.S. Supreme Court case.
Joel Aguilar told legislators he was sentenced to life without parole at 17 for participating in a robbery and murder, and he served 25 years before winning a resentencing hearing – a long and expensive process. Today he is a college student on track to graduate with a BA in philosophy and working as a mentor.
“It was a sentence to die in prison, and as a young person I could not comprehend it. My punishment told me that I was unworthy of redemption,” he said. “But as I began to meet people who were good, talented, sensitive and generous, I began to believe that I could do good in the world. SB394 says to a young person, ‘You are more than your worst act. You are redeemable and worthy of a second chance.’ ”
Dozens of groups joined the Equity and Justice push and won bipartisan support
Many of the bills in the #EquityAndJustice package won bipartisan support in the California Legislature and were supported by dozens of groups across the state that promote civil rights and juvenile justice reform:
- SB 180 – Drug Sentence Enhancements
This reform measure seeks to put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion by reducing sentence enhancements for certain low level, nonviolent drug offenses. SB 180 had five cosponsors and was supported by nearly 200 business, community, legal and public-service groups.
- SB 190 – Ending Juvenile Fees
Puts an end to innocent defendants being required to reimburse the courts for the cost of appointed counsel by specifying that this requirement may only be imposed in cases where the defendant is ultimately convicted of a crime. SB 190 had six cosponsors and nearly 70 supporters.
- SB 355 - No Court Fees for the Innocent (signed July 10)
This provides that only those who are convicted of a crime are required to reimburse the courts for legal counsel fees. SB 355 was sponsored by the Conference of California Bar Associations and six justice-rights groups.
- SB 393 – Sealing of Arrest Records
Seals arrest records and remove barriers to employment for those arrested but not convicted of a crime. Sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.
- SB 394 – Juveniles Life Without the Possibility of Parole
Brings California into compliance with the Montgomery v. Louisiana decision that juveniles cannot be sentenced to Life Without Parole. Co-sponsored by the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, #cut50, Human Rights Watch, National Center for Youth Law, Pacific Juvenile Defender Center and Youth Justice Coalition.
- SB 395 – Miranda Rights for Youth
Requires those age 15 or younger to consult with legal counsel before they waive their constitutional rights in interrogations with police. Co-sponsored by Human Rights Watch, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Silicon Valley De-Bug, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and the National Center for Youth Law.
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