FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 1, 2020
Contact: Nicholas Reiner, Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), (213) 607-2583, email@example.com
Governor Gavin Newsom Signs Criminal Justice Legislation Into Law
The reforms include protecting youth in police custody and pairing an oversight plan with the closure of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Gavin Newsom signed several criminal justice bills into law yesterday. Most notably, the bills the Governor signed will protect youth in police custody (SB 203) and pair oversight and accountability with the closure of the Department of Juvenile Justice (SB 823).
“We applaud Governor Newsom for signing a suite of bills that enacts further positive change to our criminal justice system,” said Sam Lewis, Executive Director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “By recognizing the unique vulnerability of children and by choosing to close DJJ the right way, our California leadership continues to uphold the humanity of those who have experienced or are experiencing incarceration.”
During a year that has been especially difficult for our community members both inside and outside of correctional facilities, we commend Governor Newsom for signing the following bills into law. We commend the legislators who championed and supported the legislation, and thank our community partners who worked tirelessly throughout the year to ensure their passage. We are grateful to our formerly incarcerated members, whose experience, wisdom, and advocacy played an enormous role in the advancement of these reforms. This legislative season, ARC members participated in nearly 20 advocacy meetings with state legislators, gave testimony at more than six legislative hearings, and spent countless hours brainstorming and discussing these reforms at our weekly advocacy trainings.
2020 LEGISLATION SIGNED INTO LAW
- SB 203 (Bradford) – Protecting Youth in Police Custody: The previous law required, until January 1, 2025, youth 15 years of age or younger consult with legal counsel before waiving their Miranda rights. The new law applies these protections to youth 17 years of age or younger and indefinitely extends their operation. By allowing our youth to understand their rights, we can ensure the outcomes of interrogations are just and lawful, creating greater trust, accountability, and due process for all youth.
In a powerful testimony before the CA Assembly Public Safety committee, ARC Board member, Jerome Dixon recalled the 25-hour police interrogation at 17 years old that resulted in a false confession and 21 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
“The police had a story about what happened and they wanted me to put myself in it,” Dixon said. “By hour 15 of questioning I was so exhausted I couldn’t tell you if it was night or day. By hour 21, I just wanted to go home to my family. I told the officers what they wanted to hear. No young person should make an uninformed legal decision, one that could cost 20 years of his life.”
SB 203 was authored by Sen. Steven Bradford and co-sponsored by the Burns Institute, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ), #cut50, Silicon Valley De-Bug, Healing Dialogue and Action, Human Rights Watch, National Center for Youth Law, Pacific Juvenile Defender Center (PJDC), and Re:Store Justice.
- SB 823 – Alternative Trailer Bill on DJJ Closure Inclusive of Oversight, Accountability and Safeguards: This alternative trailer bill will authorize the creation of an Office of Youth Justice (OYJ) within Health and Human Services to provide leadership, oversight, and accountability for Youth Justice. Under the Alternative proposal, the Office of Youth Justice (OYJ) will be located in the state’s Health and Human Services Agency – an agency that is a better fit for moving the state toward a health and youth development orientation, as well as providing proximity to finding streams that could be leveraged to pay for services to youth.
Realignment of Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) cases to the counties and forward movement of youth justice will not be successful without the creation of this agency, which will accompany the closure of DJJ.
“Being able to stay in a juvenile facility allowed me to reconcile the harm I caused and trauma I experienced in a developmentally appropriate setting,” said ARC Advocacy Coordinator Miguel Garcia. “I would not have been able to grow into the person I am today had I served time in an adult facility as a juvenile.”
SB 823 was supported by the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice, and its member organizations.
Earlier this September, Governor Newsom also signed the following two ARC-supported bills into law.
- AB 1869 – Families Over Fees – Debt Free Justice – Adult Criminal Justice Fee Repeal in the FY 2020-21 Budget: The FY 2020-2021 Budget Trailer Bill repeals 23 administrative criminal justice fees, including probation supervision fees, and provides relief to counties to cover the cost of revenue lost as a result of the repeal. The law will end the assessment and collection of many fees imposed against people in the criminal system. By eliminating these fees, we believe California would dramatically reduce the suffering caused by court-ordered debt and enhance the economic security of system-involved populations, taking the first step towards ushering in an era of more just criminal policies that do not rely on stripping wealth from Black and Brown communities.
AB 1869 was championed by Sen. Holly Mitchell and supported by A New Way of Life, ACLU of California, East Bay Community Law Center, Ella Baker Center, Homeboy Industries, Insight Center for Community Economic Development, PolicyLink, San Francisco Financial Justice Project, San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Youth Justice Coalition, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children/All of Us or None, and the Debt Free Justice California coalition, among others.
- AB 2147 (Reyes) – Expedited Expungement for Formerly Incarcerated Firefighters: This law grants the courts judicial discretion to give an opportunity to formerly incarcerated people who have successfully participated in fire camp programs while incarcerated and deemed qualified to “cut line” to apply for expungement upon release. This law was much needed, given the difficult path it takes for a formerly incarcerated person who was a grade 1 qualified (meaning they were qualified to cut line and trained under CAL Fire or a local county fire agency) to obtain an EMT license. The expedited expungement also opens a pathway for individuals to apply for other licenses, outside the EMT. Strengthening opportunities for those who have devoted themselves to public service will reduce recidivism and instill hope for these individuals.
“AB 2147 clearing the CA Legislature affirms the just idea that people who fought fires while incarcerated are worthy of opportunities to serve their communities while free,” said Esteban Nuñez, Director of Advocacy at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “We thank Assemblymember Reyes for her relentless devotion to finding a solution to the longstanding barriers that otherwise prevent formerly incarcerated people from becoming EMT certified. Many ARC members, including those training at Ventura Training Center (VTC), have risked their lives to combat fires and we look forward to the implementation of AB 2147.”
AB 2147 was championed by Assemblymember Eloise Reyes and supported by #cut50, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, California Department of Insurance, Californians for Safety and Justice, California League of Conservation Voters, California Public Defenders Association, Center for Employment Opportunities, Drug Policy Alliance, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Initiate Justice, National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter, San Francisco Public Defender, and Smart Justice California, among others.
We are grateful to advocates, partners, legislators and the Governor who contributed to a successful advocacy season. As we recognize and celebrate our successes this year, we still recognize the journey that lies ahead. We will continue to work to improve our criminal justice system into one that is equitable and recognizes the humanity of those who come before it.