A controversial new bill, supported by the Democratic party and currently making its way through the California legislature, seeks to require judges to take a convict’s race into account when determining the duration of their prison sentence.
Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who chairs the Public Safety Committee of the California Assembly, introduced Bill 852 earlier this year.
“It is the intent of the Legislature to rectify the racial bias that has historically permeated our criminal justice system as documented by the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” the bill read.
“Whenever the court has discretion to determine the appropriate sentence according to relevant statutes and the sentencing rules of the Judicial Council, the court presiding over a criminal matter shall consider the disparate impact on historically disenfranchised and system-impacted populations,” it added.
The proposal has now passed the Assembly and is up for consideration in the state Senate.
If the California Senate approves the bill and Governor Gavin Newsom signs it into law, a new section will be added to the California Penal Code.
Assembly Member Tom Lackey, a Republican, is emphasizing that the justice system is meant to hold individuals accountable for their actions without factoring in their racial background.
“Our justice system is intended to focus on accountability for behavior without racial considerations,” Assembly Member Tom Lackey told Fox News. “The voice of victims and any potential repercussions for public safety should be our highest consideration when making decisions that directly impact California communities.”
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Late last month, the task force released its final recommendations, which the state legislature will now consider whether to implement and send to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
In its 1,00-page report, the task force proposed dozens of statewide policies and ways to calculate monetary reparations designed to redress slavery and historical injustices against Black Americans. According to the task force, such history has created lingering consequences that exist today in the form of systemic racism.
The task force estimated the minimum dollar amount in harm that California has caused or could have prevented totals at least $1 million per eligible Black Californian.
In terms of criminal justice specifically, the task force determined that qualifying Black residents could be owed over $115,000, or around $2,352 per year of residency in California from 1971 to 2020, as compensation for over-policing in Black communities, excess felony drug arrests, and disproportionate prison time during the so-called war on drugs. The final report also included proposals to end cash bail and the prosecution of low-level crimes.
Bill 852 seeks to build off the task force’s findings and recommendations by mandating that California courts fight what it describes as racial bias in sentencing that can disadvantage Black people and other minorities.
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