Racial Justice Bill on Sentencing Falls Short on Close Vote in CA State Senate

For immediate release – April 25, 2016

Contact: Glenn Backes 916-202-2538

Reconsideration Granted – Needs 3 More Votes to Pass

Sacramento—A bill to repeal ineffective and costly sentencing enhancements for prior drug convictions fell short of the votes needed to pass the California State Senate today.  It is eligible to be brought up again for consideration in coming days to see if the necessary votes can be garnered.

SB 966, authored by Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, had strong support from most Democratic Senators, who in debate described it as an issue of racial justice for Latinos and African Americans who are disproportionately targeted for long sentences, even though drug use and drug sale is equally prevalent in all racial and ethnic groups. It was also described as an end to an expensive policy that has failed to effectively deter drug sales or drug use.

The bill would maintain the current base penalty for possession for sale of a controlled substance of two to four years, or for sale of a drug, a penalty up to five years. It would repeal the section of code that adds an additional three years for each prior conviction – convictions for which people have already been punished, and result in some people being sentenced to more than ten years in county jail, even though they have no prior convictions.

The bill needs 21 votes to pass the Senate. Today, 18 Democratic Senators voted in favor of the bill. All 14 Republicans and three Democrats opposed.

Five Senators abstained, neither voting Aye nor No: Senator Hertzberg of the San Fernando Valley, Senator Hueso of San Diego & Imperial, Senator Jackson of Santa Barbara, Senator Mendoza of Whittier, and Senator Wolk of Davis/Fairfield.

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