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This year, members of California’s Senate and Assembly introduced hundreds of new bills for the final half of the 2017 – 18 legislation session. Many pertain to criminal or juvenile justice, including some that promise to expand opportunities for justice-involved youth and adults and lessen the harms of justice system contact.

Each year, CJCJ takes a formal position on 15 to 20 state bills that directly benefit our clients, support the findings of our data-driven research, and align with our mission to reduce society’s reliance on incarceration as a solution to social problems. This column highlights a few of the innovative criminal and juvenile justice bills that CJCJ is pleased to support in 2018

AB 1940 (McCarty) will allow individuals on state parole to earn credits for good conduct and participation in rehabilitative programs, which can reduce their supervision time and extend the distance they are permitted to travel. Like Prop 57, which awards credits for rehabilitative achievements in prison, AB 1940 will provide an incentive for participation in treatment programs upon release. Research shows that continuity in programming and treatment before and after release can reduce recidivism and increase rates of employment, allowing formerly incarcerated individuals to return home safely and successfully.

AB 2010 (Chau) will prohibit staff in juvenile correctional facilities from carrying pepper spray on their person, allowing it only with administrative approval and as a last resort during a riot or when staff have exhausted all available de-escalation techniques. Under AB 2010, all uses of chemical spray must be documented and reviewed by facility administrators. Currently, California is one of just five states that permits the use of chemical spray in juvenile facilities without limits on where it can be carried. Juvenile facilities are meant to be rehabilitative, yet the ubiquity of pepper spray interferes with the development of positive relationships between youth and staff and exacerbates the trauma of confinement

SB 1298 (Skinner), the Increasing Access to Employment Act, will allow formerly incarcerated and justice-involved individuals to overcome barriers to employment by ensuring that the Department of Justice does not disseminate out-of-date or inaccurate offense information. With some exceptions, the bill will limit access to criminal records that are more than two to five years old and allow individuals to review and contest their own criminal record. Moreover, SB 1298 seeks to establish a grant program to be administered through the Workforce Investment Board that would improve reentry outcomes for people with criminal convictions. By restricting access to some criminal history information, SB 1298 will lessen the collateral consequences of justice system contact.

SB 1391 (Lara) will prevent youth under the age of 16 from being transferred and tried in adult criminal court. In 2016, California voters passed Prop 57, which greatly reduced the number of young people who are prosecuted in the criminal justice system by abolishing direct file and requiring that young people receive a transfer hearing before being placed in adult court. Senator Lara’s SB 1391 advances the legacy of Prop 57 by ensuring that 14- and 15-year-olds are retained in juvenile court where they can receive rehabilitation and treatment.

Related Links:

California Must Better Protect the Health and Safety of Youth in Juvenile Halls

New Report: Youth Prosecution after Prop 57

2017 Bills Could Limit Juvenile Shackling, Repeal Sentencing Enhancements, and More