California lawmakers pass bills to shift away from mass incarceration – Bills include elimination of cash bail and restrictions on trying juveniles

In this photo taken Aug. 27, 2018, supporters of Assembly Bill 931, pull a casket representing unarmed people shot by law enforcement to the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. The bill, by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, limiting police use of deadly force, failed to pass out of a Senate committee. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

By DON THOMPSON,  Associated Press  SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) 09/09 — The recently completed California legislative session continued a years long effort to lower criminal sentences, ease restrictions on suspects, and keep juveniles out of adult prisons despite objections that the moves could harm public safety.

From a nation-leading reform measure that eliminates cash bail to restrictions on trying juveniles, a major goal of Democratic lawmakers this year was to limit mass incarceration that supporters say often disproportionately affects women, youth and minorities.

“All these bills are coming to you because it’s time for us to rectify a system that’s been proven to not work, to not rehabilitate adults, and that’s been completely discriminatory” to minorities, said Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Los Angeles-area Democrat.

Lara successfully argued for a bill prohibiting 14- and 15-year-olds from being sent to adult prisons even for crimes like murder, arson and robbery.

In this Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018 photo, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert joined others from the California District Attorney’s Association imploring Gov. Jerry Brown to veto a pair a bills dealing with juvenile offenders, during a a news conference. SB1391 would prohibit 14- and 15-year-olds from being tried and sentenced as adults, and SB 1437 which would limit the state’s felony murder rule that holds accomplices to the same standard as if they had personally killed someone. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)


The California District Attorneys Association is urging Brown to veto the bill. It could set dangerous killers free at 25 with little opportunity to keep even the most threatening locked up, the group argues.

Prosecuting people younger than 16 in adult court should be rare, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said, but judges should have that discretion in the most serious cases.

Schubert and other DAs came to Sacramento last week to urge Brown to reject the bill and to highlight the case of Daniel Marsh, who was 15 in 2013 when he murdered and mutilated an elderly couple in Davis.

“This was not a crime of passion or juvenile impulse. It was a well-planned and executed random act of violence,” said Mary Northup, the daughter of one of Marsh’s victims. “This is the exception that proves (the bill) SB1391 would unleash a violent criminal on our society.”

Brown, a former state attorney general, hasn’t indicated how he will act.

Lawmakers also vastly expanded the number of criminal suspects who can be diverted to mental health treatment programs and have their charges dismissed, but weeks later bowed to critics with a revised bill excluding those charged with murder, rape and other sex crimes.

In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, Democratic state Sens. Nancy Skinner, of Berkeley and Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys talk at the Capitol, in Sacramento, Calif. Hertzberg’s SB10, signed into law last month, ends money bail for suspects awaiting trial. Skinner’s SB1437, passed by lawmakers last week, would narrow the state’s felony murder rule that holds accomplices to the same standards as if they had personally killed someone. ( AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)


Other bills sent to Brown include restricting the state’s felony murder rule that holds accomplices to the same standard as the person who carried out the killing. Critics say the rule has been disproportionately used against poor and minority offenders as well as youths and women who are more likely to be accomplices.

“It goes too far. It at this point is nothing short of shocking and an affront to public safety,” said Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. The felony murder bill “will result in the release of murderers, absolutely no question about it,” she said, as judges and juries try to sort out who pulled the trigger.

Brown already signed a bill that in October 2019 will end cash bail for suspects awaiting trial. Suspects will instead be held or freed based on the likelihood they’ll return to court and the degree of danger they pose to the public.

California Bail Agents Association lobbyist David Quintana said he’s confident that voters will support overturning the measure on the 2020 ballot.

“All these criminal justice bills that have passed in the last couple of years are really having a cumulative effect on how the public perceives their safety,” Quintana said.

Yet California voters have generally been supportive of reform efforts, easing criminal penalties for drug and property crimes in 2014 and allowing earlier parole for inmates in a 2016 ballot measure. They’ll weigh in again in 2020 on an initiative that seeks to roll back portions of those two earlier measures.

Republican Assemblywomen Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore said lawmakers are favoring criminals over victims as she argued against a bill that would have restricted enhanced sentences for most convicts.

“We have passed quite enough soft-on-crime, pro-criminal bills this year alone,” she said. “Stop race-baiting and talk about the real issue, and maybe for once here someone can talk about the victims.”

Research shows that criminal justice laws indeed disproportionately affect minority populations, said University of California, Irvine, criminologist Keramet Reiter, while several researchers also have found little link between any increase in crime rates and the easing of laws.

In this photo taken Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, Victoria Hurd, right, leans on her daughter, Sara Rice, as she wipes her eyes after describing the 2013 murder of her father Oliver Northrup and his wife Claudia Maupin, by a 15-year-old during news conference in Sacramento, Calif. The California District Attorneys Association held the conference to implore Gov. Jerry Brown to veto SB1391, which would prohibit 14- and 15-year-olds from being tried and sentenced as adults, and SB 1437 which would limit the state’s felony murder rule that holds accomplices to the same standard as if they had personally killed someone. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)


State justice officials reported in July that violent crime in California increased 1.5 percent last year compared with 2016 while property crime dropped 2 percent over the same year.

In a rare loss, legislators facing a barrage of law enforcement opposition shelved for the year a scaled-back bill that would have toughened the standard for when police can use deadly force.

Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego introduced the legislation shortly after Sacramento police shot and killed an unarmed black man, 22-year-old Stephon Clark, while searching for someone breaking into vehicles. The killing unleashed angry protests in the capital city.

A coalition including the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, ACLU of California, Anti Police-Terror Project, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice and Youth Justice Coalition L.A. criticized lawmakers for not doing more.

“Every day that goes by without changing the standard for when police can use deadly force, is a day that another person will be unjustly killed in California,” they said.


Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper and Sophia Bollag contributed to this story.

Posted in: Bail, Crime & Criminals, Juveniles, Legislation, Sentencing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

sixteen − 2 =

Terms of Use for Posting Comments

Terms of Use

This site (the “Site”) is operated and maintained by Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Corporation (“Company”). Throughout the Site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Company.  The words “user,” “you” and “your” as used herein refer to you.

Please read these terms and conditions of use (“Terms of Use”) carefully before contributing content. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not contribute content. Your use of the Site is subject to the Terms and Conditions found here .

By contributing content to the Site, you represent and warrant that you are at least eighteen (18) years old and that you have read and understand these Terms of Use and any amendments thereto and agree to be bound by them. If you are not at least eighteen (18) years old or you do not agree and accept these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from contributing content.

From time to time, we may permit users to submit content to the Site.  You hereby acknowledge and agree that by submitting remarks, comments, suggestions, ideas, graphics, feedback, edits, concepts, comments, photographs, illustrations and other materials (other than personal information and/or registration information) through the Site (individually and collectively, “Submissions”), you (i) grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter created, without attribution to you; (ii) grant us the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your and/or our rights in your Submissions; and (iii) forever waive any and all of your rights, including but not limited to moral rights, if any, in and to your Submissions, including, without limitation, any all rights or requirements of attribution or identification of you as the author of the Submission or any derivative thereof.  We reserve the right to remove any of your Submissions from the Site, in whole or in part, without notice to you, for any reason or no reason.

Submissions are made voluntarily. Any submissions which include personally identifiable information are subject to our Privacy Policy found here .  You may not upload or otherwise publish content on the Site that (i) is confidential to you or any third party; (ii) is untrue, inaccurate, false or other than an original work of your authorship; (iii) that relates to or impersonates any other person; (iv) violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of any person or entity; (v) contains any content, personally identifiable information or other information, or materials of any kind that relate or refer to any other person or entity other than the provider of the products, goods or services to which the Submission relates; or (vi) violates any law, or in any manner infringes or interferes with the rights of others, including but not limited to the use of names, information, or materials that (A) libel, defame, or invade the privacy of any third party, (B) are obscene or pornographic, (C) are harmful, threatening, offensive, abusive, harassing, vulgar, false or inaccurate, racially, sexually, ethnically or are otherwise objectionable or otherwise contrary to the laws of any place where such Submissions may be accessed; (D) constitute personal attacks on other individuals; (E) promote criminal, immoral or illegal activity; (F) promote or advertise any person, product or service or solicit funds; or (G) are deemed confidential by any contract or policy.

You are solely responsible for any Submissions you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any Submissions posted by you or any third party.

Unless approved by us in writing in advance, you agree not to: (i) provide or create a link to the Site; or (ii) create any frames at any other sites pertaining to any of the content located on the Site.

We reserve the right, in our discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Use for Posting Comments by posting updates and/or changes to our Site.  It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes.  Your continued use of, and/or access to the Site, following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Use for Posting Comments, constitutes your acceptance of those changes.