Under current law, certain drug offenses in California carry with them mandatory jail and prison sentences. On Monday, Senator Scott Wiener along with co-sponsor Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo announced SB 378, which would grant judges more discretion by repealing laws that were established during the height of the War on Drugs era in 1986which enacted these mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
For a lot of people in progressive California it is surprising to hear that in 2020, with all of the reforms that weve been working on for years, that there are still mandatory jail or prison sentences for non-violent drug offenses, Senator Wiener explained.
The current law denies judges the discretion to sentence drug offenders to more appropriate terms such as probation or diversion.
But here we are in California, in 2020, with mandatory prison or jail sentences for non-violent drug sentences, he said.
SB 378 would give the judge the ability to decide whether to incarcerate or whether to put someone on probation or diversion.
In California, we tragically were pioneers in the 70s and 80s and 90s in mass incarceration, Senator Wiener said. California led the way in mass incarceration, finding ways to sentence people to longer periods of time for more and more crimes.
Courts eventually found that prison conditions were so overcrowded that they were unconstitutionaland it was unconstitutional despite the fact that we built dozens of new prisons.
We have seen the damage that mass incarceration has caused tearing communities apart, tearing families apart, he said.
Senator Wiener argued that mass incarceration is a public health issue in California, and in the short and long term, he said, we must work to offer non-incarceration options to drug offendersparticularly those struggling with substance use disorderinstead of defaulting to prison or jail time.
Not only is mass incarceration bad for public health, Senator Wiener said, its also a giant expense for California in a time when we face massive budget cuts and a potentially catastrophic recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown. Mass incarceration costs our state unnecessary billions that should be going to things like schools, healthcare, and infrastructure.
Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo and Senator Nancy Skinner have introduced previous versions of this bill in past years, and will co-author SB 378. It is sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance.
Incarcerating non-violent drug offenders is the wrong direction for California, and its time repeal these jail and prison mandates,saidSenator Scott Wiener.
Mass incarceration is deeply harmful to our state part of the structural racism afflicting our entire criminal justice system and we must end it.It makes no sense to force judges to sentence non-violent drug offenders to jail or prison, he said. Californias addiction to over-incarceration tears families and communities apart, doesnt make us safer, and costs taxpayers dearly. California needs to reduce our jail and prison population and begin closing down prisons. Now is the time to take this step toward decarceration.
Assemblymember Carrillo noted, This legislation is important especially as we address issues of institutionalized systemic racism that plagues our communities.
She noted that, under the current law, judges are prohibited from evaluating all of the circumstances and applying their own discretion in sentencing. Instead, judges are forced to incarcerate people who would better be treated and evaluated in their own community.
These minimums disproportionately impact and affect minority communities, she said. Every year mass incarceration impacts our families across our state and consumes billions that California should be investing in education, health and mental health programs.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said, Mandatory minimums for far too long have disproportionately impacted people of color in poor working communities.
He said it is unusual for him to advocate for a law that would strip power away from his office.
Mandatory minimums have been a tremendous power grab by district attorneys from judges, he said. (The) power has been abusedit has led to spiraling incarceration, its led to disproportionate sentencing for people of color.
At the same time, Boudin said, The war on drugs has continued to cost the state of California over $47 billion a year even though we know it is a failureit does not work.
He said it is not an effective or empirically founded response to the very real challenges that our communities face.
Senator Wiener noted that this law would not eliminate maximum punishment in cases where judges deemed it warranted, it simply takes away the mandate.
San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju called this clearly a step in the right direction.
He noted that a lot of the amount that people go to prison for are really tiny amounts that are being sold.
Many of these people are attempting to support addiction or have mental health issues or are housing insecure.
He noted the case of a 40-year-old Black woman, with a documented history of mental health problems. She was in possession of .04 grams of crack4/100ths of a Sweet N Low packet. She sold to an undercover officer who was willing to pay $20 for a crumb that she had just bought for $5.
It is not uncommon for someone in that situation in courtrooms across the state to be sentenced to prison and then to be ineligible for housing or other benefits, he said.
This is expensive injustice, he said. The racial inequalities [exist] because of where law enforcement is choosing to use their resources [to] start.
Nick Stewart-Oaten, speaking for the California Public Defender Association, noted that the bill attempts to address an inequity created from a bill passed in 1986during the heart of the drug war.
The current mandatory minimums that this bill is trying to address are incredibly disproportionate, he explained. Right now if I sell a small amount of drugs Im ineligible for proobation. But if I assault somebody I am eligible for probation.
This kind of discrepancy in the law between nonviolent and violent offenders really needs to be addressed, he said, noting that, with the cost of incarceration at over $80,000 per year and the length of these sentences which often extends to ten years or more, the costs figure to be nearly $1 million for many of these cases.
Mandatory minimums are a remnant of the failed, costly and racist War on Drugs, said Glenn Backes, policy consultant for Drug Policy Alliance. Current law ties the hands of judges, they are powerless. This bill gives the judge the authority to order probation services and supervision, when it makes sense, given local norms and local resources.
In a release from Senator Wieners office, they said, As our country reckons with the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and begins a massive rethinking of our criminal justice system, we must take seriously the ways we can begin to end our system of mass incarceration. The War on Drugs and its disproportionate criminalization of Black and brown communities must end, and SB 378 would repeal one of the eras worst leftover laws.
David M. Greenwald reporting
To sign up for our new newsletter Everyday Injustice https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9
- Letter to the editor | We have lost the War on Drugs - TribDem.com - November 29th, 2020
- A live treat from The War on Drugs - Livemint - November 29th, 2020
- The War on Drugs: LIVE DRUGS (Super High Quality) - review - Under the Radar Mag - November 29th, 2020
- The Drugging of the American Mind | Opinion | Northern Express - northernexpress.com - November 29th, 2020
- Five Years Ago, White Families Called For A 'Gentler War On Drugs.' Did We Get One? - TalkingDrugs - November 29th, 2020
- New music roundup: Soft Kill, Tank and the Bangas, The War on Drugs - Columbia Daily Tribune - November 29th, 2020
- Hear the first episode of the War on Drugs Super High Quality Podcast - Far Out Magazine - November 29th, 2020
- New Indie Music: The War On Drugs, Fiona Apple, And More - UPROXX - November 29th, 2020
- Ed Forchion Wages His Own War on Drugs: Sues the State of New Jersey Over Bait and Switch Cannabis Regulation Laws - Massachusetts Newswire - November 29th, 2020
- Kip Yost: Some hard things that must be done to reduce homelessness - Salt Lake Tribune - November 29th, 2020
- Will magic mushrooms go the way of cannabis? Legalization efforts are growing - Vallejo Times-Herald - November 29th, 2020
- The War On Drugs, Kings Of Leon, Cardi B among latest Mad Cool 2021 additions - Live4ever Media - Live4ever - November 29th, 2020
- Guns, Drugs and Viral Content: Welcome to Cartel TikTok - The New York Times - November 29th, 2020
- The War on Drugs has caused more harm than good - The Maine Wire - August 6th, 2020
- Police in Floyd County have new tool to fight the war on drugs - FOX 5 Atlanta - August 6th, 2020
- The Floret Coalition Is Adapting the Giving Circle Model to Help Address the Damage of the War on Drugs - Willamette Week - August 6th, 2020
- Exposing Rodrigo Duterte's War on the Free Press - Hyperallergic - August 6th, 2020
- Fighting the Yaba Pill: The Death Toll Mounts in Bangladesh's Drug War - DER SPIEGEL - August 6th, 2020
- Guardia Civil execute huge drugs bust in the war on crime in Torrevieja - Euro Weekly News - August 6th, 2020
- Death Penalty Danger in the Philippines - Human Rights Watch - August 6th, 2020
- WE'RE IN THE MONEY, MAYBE | Cap City - Illinois Times - August 6th, 2020
- China Is Waging Cyber-Enabled Economic War on the U.S. How to Fight Back. - Barron's - August 6th, 2020
- Juvenile Records Laws Must Be Reformed to Prevent Ongoing Racism - Juvenile Justice Information Exchange - August 6th, 2020
- How the Pandemic Defeated America - The Atlantic - August 6th, 2020
- The road to riches - Illinois Times - August 6th, 2020
- Dominion, Decriminalization, and Demilitarizing the Police: An Exclusive Q&A With Jennifer McClellan - rvamag.com - August 6th, 2020
- Reparations is a nonstarter in Congress. Not in this Southern city. - The Christian Science Monitor - August 6th, 2020
- Advancing Equity: Women's Crisis Center staff repeats this phrase and means it 'We are still here' - User-generated content - August 6th, 2020
- 7 of the best Steven Soderbergh films to watch right now, from crime dramas to caper comedies - Minneapolis Star Tribune - August 6th, 2020
- The hidden face of the war in Cabo Delgado - defenceWeb - August 6th, 2020
- Opinion Defining defunding the police to help our community - The CT Mirror - August 6th, 2020
- Saratoga Jewish Community Arts to present virtual panel discussion on the film '13th' - The Saratogian - July 21st, 2020
- The US 'war' on drugs - newagebd.net - July 21st, 2020
- As the War on Drugs Relentlessly Grinds On, Overdose Deaths Relentlessly Mount - Cato Institute - July 21st, 2020
- The Business of Drugs: Why The US Drug War Can NEVER Be Won - Screen Rant - July 21st, 2020
- 20 charged as part of sheriff's 'War on Drugs' - ABC 36 News - WTVQ - July 21st, 2020
- Activists take to the streets to call for marijuana legalization in N.J. - NJ.com - July 21st, 2020
- Police Murders and the War on Drugs - LA Progressive - July 21st, 2020
- Austin, Texas, Just Voted to End the Drug War - The Nation - July 21st, 2020
- The Genius Of The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding - Guitar.com - July 21st, 2020
- Colombia to kick off congressional year with cocaine decriminalization bill - Colombia Reports - July 21st, 2020
- The Business of Drugs: Why Amaryllis Fox Is The Perfect Host - Screen Rant - July 21st, 2020
- How a miracle drug changed the fight against infection during World War II - The Union Leader - July 21st, 2020
- As Philippines fights coronavirus, some fear involvement of the police - Reuters - July 21st, 2020
- Netflix's The Business Of Drugs Review: Cocaine, Meth, and More | TechQuila - TechQuila - July 21st, 2020
- The People: bridging distance and differences in a pandemic - The Fulcrum - July 21st, 2020
- Covid-19 in Philippines: Police deployed to implement fresh lockdowns - The Indian Express - July 21st, 2020
- Pressure from Manipur CM Biren Singh to drop drugs case: cop to court - The Indian Express - July 21st, 2020
- The Newcastle Herald's Opinion, Thursday, July 16, 2020: What value the 'war on drugs' when substance use is 'normalised' in society? - Newcastle... - July 21st, 2020
- Decades of promised police reforms have failed to alter a culture of abuse and racism - Milwaukee Independent - July 21st, 2020
- Lessons From a Global Reckoning: D.C. Looks to Make 14-Year-Old Social Studies Standards More Inclusive as Cities Nationwide Grapple With Re-Engaging... - July 21st, 2020
- Philippines war on drugs may have killed tens of thousands, says UN - The Guardian - June 6th, 2020
- Trump Reelection Campaign Attacks Biden As 'Architect' Of The War On Drugs - Marijuana Moment - June 6th, 2020
- Dan Adams On The Racist War On Drugs, And Why Equity Licensing Matters - wgbh.org - June 6th, 2020
- The Man Who Started the War on Drugs - OZY - June 6th, 2020
- From Iceland Iceland-Backed UN Report Condemns Filipino Government's War On Drugs - Reykjavk Grapevine - June 6th, 2020
- How American Race Relations Shaped Lives of Current, Former Seahawks - Sports Illustrated - June 6th, 2020
- Gardai start special war on drugs operation in Finglas as 'horrific' day time images surface online - Dublin Live - June 6th, 2020
- Change comes from marching in streets and to the ballot box - Rockford Register Star - June 6th, 2020
- Decades of Americas drug wars led up to the riots of today - RT - June 6th, 2020
- Defund the Police - The Atlantic - June 6th, 2020
- The right is trying to link George Soros and George Floyd protests. Don't let it. - NBC News - June 6th, 2020
- Calum Marsh: Defunding the police isn't radical. It's so lucid it's a wonder it took a movement to catch on - National Post - June 6th, 2020
- It's a war on the poor why the war on drugs is still sweeping the globe - Morning Star Online - May 29th, 2020
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Where is NAACP's outrage toward abortion, black-on-black crime? - Anniston Star - May 29th, 2020
- In this documentary, Duterte's drug war is a hunt for the aswang - CNN Philippines - May 29th, 2020
- Colombia to receive US Army unit on June 1 for counter-narcotics support - The City Paper Bogot - May 29th, 2020
- No time to be selling arms to the Philippines | TheHill - The Hill - May 29th, 2020
- The battle of COVID in the 'quiet war' on China | TheHill - The Hill - May 29th, 2020
- Stevenson: We have to find ways to create more equality, more opportunity, more justice - Harvard Law School News - May 29th, 2020
- US declares a vaccine war on the world - Asia Times - May 29th, 2020
- Here's new movies and shows to stream in June on Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu and Prime Video - Tulsa World - May 29th, 2020
- Kalen & Aslyn Narrate and Rekindle Their Love on Girlfriend - American Songwriter - May 29th, 2020
- Editorial: On Memorial Day, we recognize our collective debt - Los Angeles Times - May 29th, 2020
- Fighting Addiction and a Pandemic to Keep St. Louis' Unhoused Alive - Riverfront Times - May 29th, 2020
- NMS hires 225 medics in heightened war on Covid-19 - The Star, Kenya - May 29th, 2020
- War on Drugs - Timeline in America, Definition & Facts ... - May 24th, 2020
- A Hidden Origin Story of the CBD Craze - The New York Times - May 24th, 2020
- War Metaphors and the Return to Campus | Confessions of a Community College Dean - Inside Higher Ed - May 24th, 2020
- Police bust over one ton of drugs in SE Iran - Mehr News Agency - English Version - May 24th, 2020