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ACR-186 Criminal sentencing. (2019-2020)

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CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Concurrent Resolution
No. 186


Introduced by Assembly Member Kamlager

March 10, 2020


Relative to criminal sentencing.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


ACR 186, as introduced, Kamlager. Criminal sentencing.
This measure would state that the Legislature recognizes the need for statutory changes to end extreme sentencing.
Fiscal Committee: NO  

WHEREAS, There are currently more people serving life sentences than the entire prison population of the early 1970s, with a 590-percent increase in the national prison population since 1980; and
WHEREAS, Since California enacted the Uniform Determinate Sentencing Act of 1976 and adopted life without parole sentencing in 1978, the state’s prison population has increased by 900 percent; and
WHEREAS, Despite historic declines in crime rates, life sentences are at an all-time high, with more than 200,000 people serving life sentences nationwide, amounting to one in seven people in prison; and
WHEREAS, One in three people in California prisons is serving a life or virtual life sentence, which is, at 31.3 percent, among the highest rates in the country; and
WHEREAS, The lessons of mass incarceration have led California to begin divestment from ineffective, punitive responses to harm in order to reallocate resources towards community alternatives to incarceration; and
WHEREAS, Mercy, redemption, and rehabilitation must be centered as the cornerstones of our legal system; and
WHEREAS, California has demonstrated efforts to increase public safety by reducing certain felonies to misdemeanors, expanding parole opportunities for people sentenced to life as children, increasing access to postconviction relief, and implementing restorative justice practices; and
WHEREAS, The cost to incarcerate one individual for life can cost up to $5,000,000; and
WHEREAS, The Penal Code affirms that “criminal justice policies that rely on building and operating more prisons to address community safety concerns are not sustainable, and will not result in improved public safety,” yet the budget proposed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for itself for 2020–2021 is $16,400,000,000, the highest expenditure out of all the states; and
WHEREAS, California has, more than any other state, the biggest gap between education and prison spending, paying $11,495 per student as opposed to over $80,000 per person incarcerated; and
WHEREAS, CDCR reports that California’s recidivism rate continues to hover around 50 percent, exceeding national rates; and
WHEREAS, Research has shown that long sentences do not deter future crimes and that there is no reliable evidence showing that any deterrent effect is “sufficiently large to justify the costs of long prison sentences”; and
WHEREAS, In 2018, only 2.9 percent of people serving life sentences were released and only 0.3 percent of people serving third-strike sentences were released; and
WHEREAS, Out of 988 people convicted of murder who were released from California prisons over a 20-year period, only 1 percent were arrested for new crimes. None of the 988 people were rearrested for murder and none of them went back to prison over the 20-year period examined; and
WHEREAS, Research shows that people begin aging out of crime by the time they reach their mid-20s, leading the National Research Council to conclude that lengthy prison sentences are an inefficient approach to preventing crime; and
WHEREAS, By 2030, nearly one-third of the prison population will be 55 years of age and older; and
WHEREAS, In the face of inadequate accommodations for the aging population in prisons, others in prison must act as caregivers for their elderly counterparts by pushing wheelchairs, administering medication, and helping with feeding, dressing, cleaning, and other needs; and
WHEREAS, People in prison are stripped of dignity in death by being shackled to their deathbeds and denied bedside visits; and
WHEREAS, California sentences one in four women in CDCR custody to life in prison, thereby sentencing a higher proportion of women to life sentences than anywhere else in the country; and
WHEREAS, Women serving life sentences were found to have suffered the highest rates of traumatic abuse prior to their incarceration as compared to the rest of the prison population; and
WHEREAS, The Black community is disproportionately subjected to extreme sentences, representing less than 15 percent of the national population, but comprising 48.3 percent of people serving life sentences, 55 percent of people serving virtual life sentences, and 56.4 percent of people serving life sentences without the possibility of parole; and
WHEREAS, The United States is the only country in the western world that sentences youth to life in prison, with more than 7,000 youth nationwide serving life sentences and another 2,000 serving virtual life prison terms of 50 years or more; and
WHEREAS, The majority of survivors of crime expressed support for rehabilitation over punishment, including replacing extreme sentences for violent crimes with opportunities for transformation and investment in prevention, including restorative justice practices; and
WHEREAS, Family connections are among the most stabilizing resources for people in prison, yet are vulnerable to deterioration over the course of a loved one’s incarceration, so that by the time release is possible, people find themselves without a home to go to or a community to welcome and support them; and
WHEREAS, Incarceration causes depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and other chronic health issues, not only for people who are incarcerated but for their loved ones as well; and
WHEREAS, The opportunity to access evidence-based programs such as postsecondary education has been shown to lead to a 48-percent drop in recidivism rates among participants; and
WHEREAS, Nearly everyone who commits violence has also endured violence without having had the opportunity for healing, and responses to harm that center true accountability, as well as healing, safety, and justice for all, can interrupt these cycles of harm that our prisons have failed to disrupt, and conversely, perpetuate it further; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof concurring, That the Legislature recognizes the need for statutory changes to end extreme sentencing; and be it further
Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.