8 million people in California have a past arrest or conviction on their record.1 The vast majority of people with convictions have long finished their sentence in prison, jail, parole or probation and exited the ‘deepest end’ of the justice system: The data shows 9 out of 10 people with a criminal record in California have aged out of criminality and have not or will not commit another offense.1 California’s bedrock remedy has been “expungement” which was adopted nearly 100 years ago. It has since been expanded and automated, yet it fails to be a complete solution. Expungement provides only partial relief and is only available for a certain subset of people with conviction records – for people with misdemeanors and a small category of people with felonies that did not result in prison or jail terms. Because our members tend to have been convicted of more serious and/or violent crimes, it should be no surprise that 86% of our survey respondents have never had a record expunged.
ARC is working with coalition partners, such as Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ), to sunset criminal convictions and expand record sealing to all sentences following completion of terms of incarceration, post-release supervision, and an additional period of time – provided the person has completed their sentence without any new felony convictions and has no new charges pending through a phased relief process.
SB 731 proposes a structured approach to sunsetting conviction records:
Automated Sealing of All Arrest Records That Do Not Result in Conviction, and
Phased Relief for Conviction Records: Expand record sealing so all sentences following completion of terms of incarceration, post-release supervision, and an additional period of time – provided the person has
completed their sentence without any new felony convictions and has no new charges pending.
SB 731 will also retroactively provide the same opportunities for sealing relief for individuals convicted on or after January 1, 1973. This relief would not be available to individuals on the sex offender registry.
SB 262 (Herzberg & Skinner) - The Pretrial Justice Reform Act of 2021
This legislation creates a more fair pretrial justice system in California by:
Setting bail at $0 for most misdemeanors and low-level felonies;
Ensuring people accused do not remain in custody simply because they cannot afford to pay bail and do not
assume any costs of court-imposed release conditions; and,
Requiring bail companies to refund the premiums they receive from defendants who aren’t charged; have
their case dismissed or make all of their required court appearances.
SB 481 (Durazo) – Ending Extreme Sentencing – Second Chance Parole
ARC was founded on Youth Offender Parole (SB 260, Sb 261, AB 1308). Young people are developing neurologically and socially in ways that are relevant to criminal behavior and the capacity for personal change. Youth Offender Parole gives young people the hope and motivation needed to work hard at rehabilitation. ARC members have felt the devastating impacts of these archaic and draconian sentencing practices as 63% of respondents of a recent survey had spent over 10 years in prison and 36.7% had served over 20 years in prison. This bill seeks to expand YOP – a majority (54.6%) of our member survey respondents were sentenced to life with or without the possibility of parole (48.8% were sentenced to life; 6 % were sentenced to LWOP).
SB 493 (Bradford) – The PROMYSE (Promoting Youth Success and Empowerment) Act
The PROMYSE Act will revitalize California’s JJCPA grant to align with youth’s needs and present-day realities. ARC youth Advocate Kenzo Sohoue, expresses, “I’ve noticed that most of my peers were never exposed to opportunities in their childhoods that could have model them and encouraged them to become productive members of our communities. That is because there isn’t enough money invested in community centers and youth development centers.”
Assembly Sponsored Priorities
AB 333 (Kamlager) - Reforming Gang Enhancements
Gang enhancements are one of the many sentencing enhancements used to extend a person’s sentence. However, the wide net cast due the vague definitions and weak standards of proof that characterize it, have made it into one of the most devastatingly effective drivers of mass incarceration in the state. Further, its discriminatory application – 92% of those with gang enhancements are people of color – is responsible for the collective trauma of countless families and communities. ARC is working on legislation that will begin to address this harm by making the standards for applying a gang enhancement more rigorous, and by focusing its use on the most dangerous, violent, and coordinated criminal activities – as the Legislature and people of California originally intended.
The legislation will:
Reduce the list of crimes that allow gang enhancements to be charged;
Prohibit the use of the current charge as proof of a “pattern” of criminal gang activity;
Separate gang allegations from underlying charges at trial.
AB 990 (Santiago) – Family Unity Bill
This bill seeks to strengthen visiting rights to support the emotional health of Californians and their incarcerated loved ones and to improve in-custody conduct and reduce recidivism.
This bill has several components, that enable currently incarcerated individuals to have regular contact with their family members. Below are the key provisions of the bill:
Establishes personal visits as a right for currently incarcerated individuals and outlines specific
circumstances under which such right can be revoked.
Sets parameters on when a person can be denied in-person visits.
ACA 3 (Kamlager) - Ending Involuntary Servitude - The California Abolition Act
The Constitution of California prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude “except to punish crime.” ACA 3, the California Abolition Act, would amend the California Constitution to remove such conditional language, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude without exception.
Over 94,000 Californians are currently incarcerated in state prison. African Americans account for 28% of the prison population and less than 6% of California’s overall population. The psychological effects of modern-day slavery and involuntary servitude are well documented. The lack of personal choice inherent in both conditions can lead to a diminished sense of self, as well as issues with autonomy, self-efficacy and ability to relate to and trust others. Our state constitution has yet to reflect the values of equality and justice that Californians now hold so dear.
The California Abolition Act would amend Article 1, Section 6 of the California Constitution to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude without exception. As it stands, California prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude “except to punish crime.” Such conditional language exists in the constitutions of nearly 30 states. Building off the momentum of statewide efforts in Colorado, Nebraska and Utah (where similar legislation has already been passed), the California Abolition Act pushes our state toward codifying complete and unconditional abolition.
AB 1127 (Santiago and Quirk) – Juvenile Three Strike Reform
This bill would eliminate strikes committed as a juvenile from being used to enhance future adult felonies. This bill would also allow people to petition for resentencing if their prior juvenile adjudication was used to enhance an adult felony conviction.
AB 717 (Stone) – Expanding the California Identification Program California Identification Cards
Many people are released from prison without the proper identification needed to meet their necessities such as housing, employment, education, medical care, banking, and, for those who need it, governmental assistance programs benefit programs. A recent survey conducted by the advocacy team found that 68.60% of ARC members were released without a government form of identification. This bill would ensure everyone leaves a prison facility with a driver’s license or valid California identification card.