Articles Tagged with incarcerated

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and within the US, California hosts the second largest prison population behind Texas. Mass incarceration has led to overcrowding, which in turn has resulted in increased health risks and decreased psychological welfare of inmates. In recent years, California’s legislature has worked hard to correct the devastating results of the state’s traditional tough on crimes policies, which have led to excessively punitive sentences and have affected and continue to affect poor people and minorities disproportionately. Long sentences have not only failed to increase public safety, but have also had a damaging effect on vulnerable individuals, especially those who have committed their offenses as minors.

In 2018, Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2942, which went into effect on January 1, 2019. Prior to AB 2942, there were no legal vehicles for district attorneys to revisit and re-evaluate sentences and, when warranted in the pursuit of justice, to recommend a sentence recall and reduction. Nowadays, due to AB 2942, local district attorneys have been given the discretionary power to revisit cases to determine whether the further confinement of inmates facing overly prolonged incarceration is in the interest of justice, and if it is not, to recommend a case for resentencing.

AB 2942 does not provide for any exclusions. That means that cases involving any type of offense or sentence are potentially eligible for recommendation for recall of a sentence. Furthermore, the law does not provide for any requirements of time served. Notably, this law could potentially provide relief for immigrant defendants facing immigration consequences based on their sentences, by having them reduced to non-deportable ones.

Empty Prison Cell
It’s no secret that many elements of the criminal justice system have imposed unfair prison sentences, especially enhancements that can add decades to the total time served in prison. This has led to overcrowded prisons, disproportionately affecting people of color and those suffering from mental illnesses.

Sentence enhancements are not related to the original crime, rather, they are add-ons based on how the crime was committed and the nature of the circumstances involving the crime. For example, using a firearm to commit a robbery can add anywhere between 10 and 20 years, while any association with organized crime could result in two to 10 more years in prison. The latter depends on the severity of the offense.

Like many aspects of the criminal justice system, there is a large degree of variation in how certain crimes are interpreted. For example, it is alleged that California’s current sentencing enhancement laws disproportionately affect people of color and those with mental illnesses. It is worth mentioning that judges have the legal ability to dismiss sentence enhancements, but they rarely do so.

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