California State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA. Photo credit: Asilvero
2013 was a big year for reentry and criminal justice reform legislation in California. A lot of wonderful and important changes were made. These reforms promote public safety and human rights for people coming out of prison and jail. And changes at the top have a ripple effect on our work—these changes mean that Root & Rebound and other reentry orgs can do more for clients who are trying to get their lives back on track after incarceration.
Below you will find the criminal justice reforms and reentry legislation that was passed, vetoed by the Governor, or is currently pending in California over the 2013-2014 legislative term.
Bills Signed into Law in 2013:
“Ban the Box” – Removing Barriers to Employment
AB 218 (Dickinson) — Research shows again and again that stable employment significantly reduces the likelihood that someone who has been incarcerated will reoffend. Barriers to employment for the nearly seven million adult Californians with a criminal record make their successful reentry into society even more difficult, which affects public safety. Otherwise qualified individuals are often discouraged from applying for work because job applications ask about conviction histories. AB 218 prohibits state and local agencies from inquiring about an applicant’s record until the agency has determined the individual meets the minimum employment qualifications for the position.
STATUS: Signed into law on October 10, 2013
Acceptance of Prisoner ID Cards
AB 625 (Quirk) — authorizes a Prisoner‘s Identification Card to be used as a valid ID for a notary to formalize legal documents while a person is in prison.
STATUS: Signed into law in August 2013
AB 651 (Bradford) — Fills a critical gap in the law and helps to reduce barriers to reentry. Under AB 651, people who complete a local sentence under the new Realignment laws have an opportunity to petition for “set aside and dismissal” (also known as “expungement”), after completing a waiting period and demonstrating rehabilitation to the court. This process is similar to the one already available to individuals who successfully complete felony Probation, and does not mean that a conviction is removed from a person’s record.
STATUS: Signed into law in October 2013
Medi-Cal/Medicaid as a tool to reduce crime and jail costs
AB 720 (Skinner) — Many people in jail have mental health or addiction problems, and as many as nine in 10 have no health coverage. Studies show that enrolling jail populations in federally funded Medi-Cal can reduce recidivism (16 percent for those with mental illness) and save money. This bill provides a framework for counties to automatically enroll eligible people in jail in Medi-Cal and provides counties with valuable tools for enrollment, including authorizing counties to enroll individuals on their behalf, and allowing someone with Medi-Cal coverage to have it suspended, instead of cancelled, if they are incarcerated again. This ensures that upon release they can access medical care, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment.
STATUS: Signed into law on October 8, 2013
Extending effective work furlough options (co-sponsored with the Chief Probation Officers of California)
AB 752 (Jones-Sawyer) — Under existing law, people who are sentenced to county jail for misdemeanors are eligible for work furlough programs focused on job training and rehabilitation. These programs also allow people with employment to maintain those jobs (key to reducing recidivism) and reserves jail space for higher-risk people. AB 752 would extend these programs to people serving time for specific low-risk felonies in county jail.
STATUS: Signed into law in July 2013
Smarter Justice for Juveniles with Adult Sentences
SB 260 (Hancock) — Recent scientific evidence on adolescent brain development shows that certain parts of the brain, particularly effecting decision-making and judgment, do not fully develop until one’s early 20s. Both the U.S. and California Supreme Courts recognized the significance of this research and banned mandatory life sentences for juveniles; California also banned the imposition of de facto life sentences for juveniles. SB 260 would create a parole process for people given lengthy sentences as juveniles, recognizing the role of brain development while still holding him or her accountable for the crime.
STATUS: Signed into law in September 2013
Diversion Programs and Record Sealing
SB 513 (Hancock) — Provides that in any case where a person is arrested and successfully completes a pretrial diversion program, the person may two years later petition the superior court to seal the arrest and related court records.
STATUS: Signed into law in October 2013
Court Discretion to Grant Certificates of Rehabilitation Early
SB 530 (Wright) — In California, a court may grant a Certificate of Rehabilitation to state by court order that a person has fully rehabilitated and reinstating many of their civil rights. The mandatory rehabilitation period is 7, 9, or 10 years depending on the offense (see PC § 4852.03). SB 530 now allows a court to grant a Certificate of Rehabilitation before the applicable period of rehabilitation.
STATUS: Signed into law in October 2013, effective January 1, 2014.
Currently Pending Legislation: (We can’t post about all of this pending legislation without noting that we all have a VOICE in this process. We encourage you to contact your state representatives about any and all pending legislation you feel strongly about. Please see the information under the below 3 bills about who to contact, sample support letters. etc!)
Successful Re-Entry & Access to Jobs Act
SB 283 (Hancock) — This Bill would allow individuals, previously convicted of a drug felony, who meet all other eligibility rules to receive basic needs services, employment training and work supports through the federally-funded California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS) and CalFresh programs, provided that they are complying with the conditions of probation or parole, or have successfully completed probation or parole.
STATUS: Currently held for review by the Assembly’s Committee on Appropriations
Reduce Probation Caseloads
AB 601 (Eggman and Cooley) — Would develop effective approaches to reduce probationer caseloads and incentivize successful probation completion.
STATUS: Currently held in the Assembly
Restoration of Voting Rights for Persons Sentenced Under Realignment
AB 938 (Weber) — Would provide that a person is not excluded from voter eligibility if he or she is on post-release community supervision or mandatory supervision.
STATUS: Currently held in the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments.
Flexibility in charging drug possession cases
SB 649 (Leno) would give District Attorneys and Judges discretion to charge simple possession of certain controlled substances as either a misdemeanor or a felony (called a “wobbler”). Current law requires such cases be charged as felonies. The legislation would not have changed the penalties for sale, transportation, manufacture, or possession for sale. In thirteen states, the District of Columbia and the federal government, the penalty for simple drug possession is already a misdemeanor and those states have slightly lower crime rates than felony states and slightly higher rates of people entering drug treatment. This Bill will have helped to alleviate prison overcrowding and potentially saved the state millions of dollars.
STATUS: Passed Senate and Assembly, but vetoed by Governor Brown
Further information on these Bills can be found at:
Thank you to the many great organizations in California that support criminal justice policy reform, including Californians for Safety and Justice, East Bay Community Law Center, National Employment Law Project, A New Way of Life, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance, NAACP, Western Center on Law & Poverty, and to the constituents who have fought so hard for safety and justice in California!
—The R & R Team