Ella Baker Center Statement on Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016

Today, Governor Jerry Brown announced a ballot initiative that will reduce wasteful spending on prisons, improve rehabilitation, and require judges instead of prosecutors to decide whether youth should be tried as adults.

The following is a statement from Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Director of Programs Jennifer Kim:

We support this ballot initiative as a critical step towards ending our reliance on prisons and punishment as an answer to every public safety concern. Too many of our state resources are currently spent on incarceration, and the result is separated families and less safe communities. With this initiative, more people inside state prisons will be eligible for early release, as well as earlier consideration for parole.

The initiative increases sentence credits for participation in rehabilitative programs, and allows people convicted of non-violent felonies to be eligible for parole after completing their base sentence, without the many years added on by sentence enhancements.  

We are especially encouraged by the necessary reforms the measure makes to the juvenile justice system by allowing judges to exercise discretion in determining whether young people should be tried as adults. Right now, a prosecutor can bypass juvenile court judges and charge youth in adult court, which has resulted in far too many youth, particularly youth of color, ending up in the adult system.

Youth are among the most vulnerable people in the criminal justice system and our efforts should be focused on their rehabilitation, not increased incarceration. If this ballot measure passes, judges will decide in which court to try young people after carefully reviewing the circumstances of the case.

The proposed initiative will move us one step closer to a society that believes in redemption and does not address every social ill with a punishment solution. We strongly support this measure and hope that it paves the way for future reforms that further reduce sentences and reinvest resources in our communities.