California Governor Signs Historic Drug Sentencing Reform Legislation

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 11, 2017

CONTACT:
Zaineb Mohammed, Zaineb@ellabakercenter.org, 630-921-1741

California Governor Signs Historic Drug Sentencing Reform Legislation

By signing the RISE Act into law, Governor Brown repealed sentence enhancements for prior drug convictions.

Sacramento, CA—Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 180, a major sentencing reform bill to continue dismantling the destructive War on Drugs in California.

The Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Enhancements (RISE) Act, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), repeals California’s three-year sentence enhancement for prior drug convictions.

“People are realizing that it is time to reform the criminal justice system so that there’s more emphasis on justice and rehabilitation,” Senator Mitchell said about SB 180, which was supported by nearly 200 businesses, community, legal and public-service groups. “By repealing sentencing enhancements for people who have already served their time, California can instead make greater investments in our communities. Let’s focus on putting ‘justice’ in our criminal-justice system.”

The RISE Act will help restore balance in the judicial process, address extreme sentences, and reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system. By preventing people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses from having their sentences doubled or tripled because of enhancements, the RISE Act will reduce jail overcrowding and reduce wasteful spending on incarceration.

“California has once again demonstrated its leadership on enacting smart and safe criminal justice policies,” said Emily Harris, State Field Director at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “I hope the rest of the country will take a page from California’s playbook, instead of following Attorney General Jeff Sessions as he attempts to drag us backwards by reviving the Drug War and pursuing mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug crimes.”

The bill’s co-sponsors and people who experienced extreme sentencing celebrate the passage of this bill as a victory for families and communities who have faced separation and destabilization for too long as a result of Drug War policies that disproportionately target people of color.

"People who have been incarcerated advocated for this bill by sharing why extreme sentences don’t make us safer and what resources we need to thrive in our communities,” said Sandra Johnson, a policy fellow with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. “It is a powerful feeling to have lawmakers hear us and take action to change the system.”

The passage of this bill builds on growing momentum in California to enact criminal justice reforms that divest from ineffective mass incarceration policies and invest in community-based solutions, like mental healthcare, education, and substance-use treatment. Voters have shown their support for such reforms by voting for Propositions 47 and 57, and advocates laud lawmakers for demonstrating their commitment to following the will of the people by enacting legislation that prioritizes safety instead of punishment.

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Co-sponsors of the RISE Act include ACLU of California, California Public Defenders Association, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Drug Policy Alliance, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Friends Committee on Legislation California, and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.