State Policy Work

The Ella Baker Center Policy Team looks directly at our laws at the State level and works with policymakers, families across the state, and allied groups to pass legislation that promotes dignity and provides opportunity for communities that have historically been left out of policy considerations. That includes disenfranchised Black and Brown communities, and overlooked families with low income.


Check out our 2019 end of year Policy Newsletter! 

This page shares a brief summary of all the criminal justice reform bills from 2019 and of bills you can look forward to in 2020. 

We are excited to share a new resource for people in California prisons with 5-year enhancements on their current sentence for prior serious felonies. 

Back to Court: A Resentencing Guide to the Fair and Just Sentencing and Reform Act (SB 1393) and PC § 1170(d)(1)

This toolkit is designed to be a specific resource for people impacted by SB 1393, and also a general resource for anyone interested in PC § 1170(d)(1) resentencing. Go to the webpage now to download the toolkit!

We are glad to share that Governor Newsom has approved of all of our bills we cosponsored through the Legislature, and many other criminal justice reforms that we supported!


Thank you to everyone that pushed with us to bring these reforms into law. Thank you to our brothers and sisters behind bars, whose words and stories went with us to the Capitol. Thank you to everyone who walked the Capitol to talk directly with state policymakers. Thanks to everyone that lifted up our campaigns in social media to spread the word about our mission. Thanks for all the phone calls, and messages to our representatives to tell them how important our fights are. Thanks for fighting with us this year, it’s an honor to be with you!

In Solidarity,

Derick Morgan

Policy Associate

Our Major Campaigns Won: Cosponsored Bills

These victories are a result of the hard work put in by our members! Help us continue to push forward life-changing legislation, sign-up for our membership!

SB 136 – RISE Act 2019 (Scott Wiener, D – San Francisco) – This narrows the application of the 1-yr sentence enhancement. Before this campaign, a prosecutor would add an extra year to your sentence for every time you got the harsher sentence of prison, instead of probation; overwhelmingly impacting Black and Brown people.  

AB 45 – Eliminating Copays in Prisons and Jails (Mark Stone, D – Monterey Bay) – People in custody no longer have to pay a copay before they can see a doctor. They can also access durable medical equipment, like diabetic shoes, glasses, and dentures.

SB 36 – Pretrial Risk Assessments (Robert Hertzberg, D – Van Nuys) – If voters approve of ending money bail, this law adds transparency to the way judges use pretrial risk assessments to decide whether to detain someone while they await trial. 

Other Criminal Justice Reform Campaigns Won

SB 310 – Right to be on a Jury (Nancy Skinner, D – Oakland) – This restores the ability to serve on a jury to most people that have had a felony conviction. Jim Crow era jury requirements with harsher sentencing of Black and Brown communities have created a situation where a large portion of the eligible jury pool from these communities was disqualified. Having a jury of your peers, who can look at a case with a shared understanding of cultural values, history and motivations, – all the supplemental context necessary to look at the totality of a case – is essential to seeing justice carried out in the courts.

AB 965 – Credits Toward Youth Offender Hearings (Mark Stone, D – Monterey Bay) – This allows young people in prison to earn time-off credits from their earlier possible parole date. This provides a fix to Prop 57 credits so that they apply to Youth Offender Parole dates.

See more on Governor Newsom’s sentencing and criminal legal reforms here.

Our victories in repealing and removing the automatic application of the most common sentence enhancements has helped open a door to get a lot of past convictions reconsidered. Building off these wins, we’ve recently published a guide help navigate the resentencing process: Back to Court: A Resentencing Guide to the Fair and Just Sentencing and Reform Act (SB 1393) and PC § 1170(d)(1)

This toolkit is designed to be a specific resource for people impacted by SB 1393, and also a general resource for several types of resentencing:

  • Penal Code § 1170(d)(1) discretionary resentencing, AB 1812 (expansion of PC § 1170(d)(1)), and AB 2942 (District Attorneys and PC § 1170(d)(1) referrals), 

  • SB 1393 (5-year enhancements for prior serious felonies), 

  • SB 620 (gun enhancements), 

  • SB 136 (1-year enhancements for prior felonies), 

  • Enhancements that been either repealed or made discretionary by recent reforms, 

  • and/or recent laws regarding new opportunities for post-conviction relief. 

The toolkit is available online to view and download at  www.ellabakercenter.org/ResentencingGuide.


Earlier this summer we supported the introduction of the “Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act" to restore the FCC's authority to stop prison phone companies from charging incarcerated people and their families predatory rates. Prison phone companies have gotten away with charging exorbitant rates for way too long. Join us in standing up for vulnerable communities and support this bill, which would outlaw predatory rates and would make phone calls to and from prisons, jails and detention centers more affordable for families trying to stay connected. 

You can learn more about #PhoneJustice in this clip from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in which he quotes our Who Pays? report