California legislators have formulated a package of criminal justice reform bills which aim to increase overall public safety. The bills should, combined and over time, lower state budgets for criminal justice and prevent future crimes by first offenders and decrease recidivism rates. With an emphasis on rehabilitation, prevention, and maintaining family units, the first bill was sent to Governor Brown in Sacramento, California in June.
Senate Bill 355 (SB-355) brings up issues with the current court system and its fining innocent parties for court-appointed council. Currently, the state of California charges court-appointed attorney fees to those found innocent, but under SB-355 attorney fees will only be chargeable in guilty cases. Because attorney fees can be detrimental on an individual or an entire family unit, alleviating unfair financial burdens will prevent poverty in venerable people.
This bill hasn’t brought much controversy, as it was the first to pass through legislature and to the desk of Gov. Brown’s. It’s the first in a series of bills that hope to bring a greater focus to compassion and common sense to criminal justice reform to California. Other bills with the same focus expected to arrive at the Governor’s desk in the near future include:
SB-393 Arrest Records to be sealed. Under current legislation, citizens arrested but acquitted of crimes can be discriminated against for employment, housing, and other opportunities. This bill seeks to seal arrest records of those who were not found guilty of a crime.
SB-395 Youth to receive Miranda Rights. This bill would allow juveniles to consult legal council before giving up any constitutional rights. It would require authorities to extend Miranda Rights to those under age 18.
SB-439 Prosecution minimum age. In a bid to protect children from incarceration, those under age 12 would be excluded from juvenile court.
Many other bills proposed as part of the package are geared toward juvenile offenders and ensuring their rights and health and safety. Additional bills within this category include one that prohibits juveniles for receiving life without parole, and one that ends administrative fees to juveniles within the justice system.
With about two weeks to sign SB-355 or veto it, Governor Brown has the next hand in the #EqualityAndJustice package’s enforcement. The rest of the bills are currently with the Assembly and, pending approval, will arrive to the governor in 2017.