Editorial: Corporations keep trying to throw out progressive California laws. Do we need reforms?
Criminal justice reform has come a long way from the days when we were promised to be “the most progressive state in America.” The fact that we’re “the most progressive state” really means we have far too many laws and far too little justice.
Proposition 47 was passed by a two-thirds vote in the state Senate but was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown (D). Proposition 47 was intended to punish the worst of the worst of criminals by reducing their punishment for a felony. But rather than protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners, it was a way for California’s political establishment to undermine what should be an independent system of justice. Proposition 47 effectively eliminated the “three strikes” law, a system that helped reduce recidivism by sending people to prison only once they had been convicted of three felonies.
Another law that helped reduce recidivism was Proposition 66, which mandated three years’ informal probation following a felony conviction for people with good prospects of earning gainful employment.
In 2018, California passed Assembly Bill 589 and Assembly Bill 590, AB5, which set an important precedent for the future of the criminal justice system in California. AB5 and AB590 eliminated the three strike law and mandated that all felony drug possession cases be prosecuted by the prosecuting agency rather than by district attorneys’ offices. These laws also set sentencing standards for judges, ensuring they can consider the individual and societal factors that play into a defendant’s crime.
These changes will increase the likelihood that people convicted of selling small amounts of illegal drugs will be re-sentenced to time in county jail or community supervision, rather than serving a lengthy prison sentence. People convicted of possessing drugs may be sent to state prison, which is much less effective than a local jail sentence, and they may be able to serve their sentence while waiting for a drug treatment program.
AB5 and AB590 will allow judges to sentence people to up to two years in state prison for a minor drug crime. AB5 and AB