Andrea Fernández, October 09, 2018

This year was an amazing year for Criminal Justice Reform in California. The weekend of September 30th in particular was a historical moment for criminal reform in California, as Governor Jerry Brown signed into law multiple bills from the Equity and Justice package and other great bills! Below you can find a breakdown of the bills. This victory comes in large part to the incredible work put in by organizations, allies, and our own Ella Baker Center staff and members. Now, we are ready to build off of this momentum, as we work together to set the Ella Baker Center’s policy agenda for our local and state work for 2019. 

These incredible criminal justice victories would not be possible if it wasn’t for our fierce allies that have been leading the charge on these reforms.  We specifically want to lift up the co-sponsors of the Fair and Just Sentencing Reform Act (SB 1393) including the ACLU of California, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Drug Policy Alliance, Friends Committee on Legislation of California, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Pillars of the Community, Tides Advocacy, and Women’s Foundation of California.


EBC Members sharing their visions on how to make our communities safer and stronger at last year’s Member Congress

Back in August, Ella Baker Center Staff, Members, Interns, and Allies traveled up to Sacramento for Lobby Day, where they met with elected officials to discuss the importance of proposed bills including Senate Bill 1393 authored by Senators Holly Mitchell (Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (Long Beach) which allows for judges to strike a mandatory five-year enhancement for a prior serious felony conviction, along with SB 1391, SB 1437 and AB 2138. The effort and dedication on behalf of our members and allies throughout the legislative process was a huge help in achieving these legislative victories.

The following bills were signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, as of September 30th, 2018:


Stop Trying Youth as Adults: Senate Bill 1391 (Mitchell and Lara) prohibits children age 14 and 15 from being tried as adults in criminal court and being sentenced to time in adult prison.

Fair & Just Sentencing Reform: Senate Bill 1393 (Mitchell and Lara) restores the court’s discretion, in the interest of justice, in deciding whether to impose a 5-year sentence enhancement for a prior serious felony conviction.

Felony Murder Rule: Senate Bill 1437 (Skinner) clarifies that a person may only be convicted of first-degree felony murder if they intentionally participated in the homicide.

Setting a Minimum Age for Juvenile Court Prosecution: SB 439 (Mitchell) keeps kids younger than 12 years old out of the juvenile system, and addresses them as civil matters.

Recall of Sentence: AB 2942 (Ting) provides prosecutors the discretion to make recommendations for recall and resentencing, where the interest of justice so warrants.  The recommendation would be made to the sentencing court, which would make the final determination whether a lesser, legal sentence is warranted.

Exoneree Support: SB 1050 (Lara) requires exonerated people being housed in California prisons to be offered financial support and transitional services, including SSI and CalFresh.

Pardon & Commutation Reform Act: AB 2845 (Bonta) increases the transparency and accessibility of the pardon and commutation process.

Resentencing of Cannabis Convictions: AB 1793 (Bonta) requires the Department of Justice to review records in the state summary criminal history database and to identify past convictions that are potentially eligible for recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation and notify the prosecution of all cases in their jurisdiction that are eligible.

EBC Senior Campaigner Emily Harris and our allies from the Women’s Policy Institute, lobbying in Sacramento

Law Enforcement Accountability & Transparency

Increasing Police Transparency & Building Community Trust: SB 978 (Bradford) requires local law enforcement agencies to post their manuals and policies, which are not exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), on their department websites.

Lifting the Veil on Police Misconduct & Use of Force: SB 1421 (Skinner) provides public access to information about deadly or serious uses of force and cases of proven sexual assault against civilians, and proven dishonesty related to the reporting, investigation, and prosecution of crimes, including perjury and destroying evidence.

Economic Interventions

Fair Chance Licensing: Assembly Bill 2138 (Chiu and Low) helps remove barriers to occupational licensing for many formerly incarcerated Californians and increases opportunities for employment. AB 2138 will allow the Department of Consumer Affairs to only weigh convictions from within the previous 7 years and only if they are substantially related to the job.

Conditions of Confinement

Raising the Indigence Threshold: AB 2533 (Mark Stone) Requires that all persons in state prisons who have maintained a trust account with $25 or less for 30 consecutive days be deemed indigent. The bill requires that all people who are indigent receive basic supplies necessary for maintaining personal hygiene and be provided with sufficient resources to communicate with and access the courts.

Access to Plant-Based Food: SB 1138 (Skinner) allows people in state prisons and hospitals to access plant-based food to meet their dietary preferences.

Incarcerated Women and Male Correctional Officers: AB 2550 (Weber) prohibits male correctional officers from conducting pat-down searches of incarcerated women unless there is a risk of immediate harm and also prohibits a male correctional officer from entering an area of the institution where women may be in a state of undress. 

We are very thankful for the hard work, effort and support from our allies, members and staff, and our fearless elected legislators including State Senators Ricardo Lara, Holly Mitchell and Nancy Skinner and Assembly Member David Chiu, who tirelessly worked to ensure that the above bills were signed into law. We’d also like to express our gratitude to Governor Jerry Brown for his support on these reforms.

If one of these policies apply to you or your loved one check out our Resentencing guide here.