California Criminal Justice Overhaul
February 4, 2020
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a slew of bills in the last month that promise to dramatically overhaul California’s criminal justice system.
Among the Reforms:
- Elimination of cash bail requirements in favor of a system rating defendants for release suitability
- Barring teenagers under the age of 16 from being tried as adults for most crimes
- Prohibit the incarceration of children under 12
- Removes the mandatory 5-year sentence enhancement for serious felony convictions
- Loosens the felony murder rule, which allows prosecutors to charge accomplices to a homicide with first-degree murder.
Additionally, Governor Brown has signed into law a pair of measures that give the public access to police personnel records and require timely release of body-worn camera video for serious incidents.
California has the most restrictive police records laws in the country, rules that have made it difficult for even prosecutors to get information about officer wrongdoings.
Opening up police department personnel records promises to dramatically change the way officer involved shootings are investigated and pursued according to the ACLU. In the past, those reviews were handled behind closed doors and the public only informed about the results after the investigation was completed. The new transparency regulations will give the public greater input from the beginning.
The criminal justice reform packages also promise to shake up our criminal justice system. As it stands now, in most cases the judge’s hands are tied by mandatory requirements when it comes to sentencing-even if the length of time wasn’t warranted.
The goals of reform are simple-help reduce California’s overcrowded prison population, among the highest in the world, reduce the juvenile crime to prison population and eliminate the discrimination felt by people of color.
Most of the new laws go into affect January 1st except for the bail elimination law which doesn’t start until 2020.
To learn more about the changes in the law and read reaction from both sides, click on this link-criminal justice reform.