AB 624, AB 731, and AB 988 (The Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Act) rethink the way we approach criminal justice in California.
Sacramento, CA – Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s (D-Orinda) landmark mental health emergency crisis response legislation, AB 988, The Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Act, passed off the Assembly floor today with a vote of 70-0. This follows her two other important justice reform bills, AB 731 and AB 624, which passed last week.
AB 988 will implement in California the new nationwide 9-8-8 Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Hotline created last year by the Federal Communications Commission and Congress. The new system will provide a critically-needed alternative to 911 and help deploy mental health professionals, rather than police officers, in situations of mental health crises. This bill will transform mental health emergency response and deliver appropriate care that addresses systemic inequalities.
“This is the year we need to finally rethink and redesign how we respond to those in mental health crisis,” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “AB 988 fundamentally changes our approach by putting care and training ahead of confrontation and arrest. It is especially poignant that this bill passed the Assembly on the two-year anniversary of the tragic death of Miles Hall. I am hopeful that with this legislation we won’t have to experience another heartbreaking loss like Miles.”
The Miles Hall Lifeline Act is named for Miles Hall, a 23-year-old black man who was shot and killed by officers in 2019 while he was suffering from a mental health crisis. The intent of this bill is to create a system in California in which trained mental health professionals respond appropriately to mental health crisis calls via 9-8-8 call centers and mobile crisis teams, rather than armed law enforcement officers. However in the case of serious public safety threats, these mobile crisis teams and law enforcement would work in tandem to deescalate the situation.
The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan in partnership with The Steinberg Institute, The Kennedy Forum, Contra Costa County, NAMI of Contra Costa County, and the Miles Hall Foundation.
“It’s time to respond to mental health crises in California with mental health professionals,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, founder of The Steinberg Institute. “Law enforcement should not be expected to be experts in mental health. This legislation is a critical piece of a broader effort to decriminalize mental illness.”
AB 988 now moves to the California State Senate for further action.
Additional bills in the Assemblymember’s criminal justice package also passed the Assembly floor last week.
Responding to the California State Auditor’s scathing report, AB 731 mandates needed accountability and transparency for existing recidivism programs within our county jails by requiring county sheriffs to provide the Legislature defined metrics on their programs’ success.
“We must take the necessary steps to ensure that we are making smart, data driven decisions when spending precious taxpayer money,” said Bauer- Kahan. “The State Auditor’s report paints a clear picture that we as a State have invested heavily in county recidivism programs, but we have zero information on which types of programs have had the best outcomes. We need this critical data in order to make informed and prudent decisions,” she finished.
AB 624 mandates a review of the often arbitrary transfer of defendants from the juvenile court system to the adult court system. While children are in the juvenile court, they have opportunities for rehabilitation and re-entry. If they are transferred to adult court, juveniles face a more punitive system. Moreover, the existing transfer process is unjust, as black and brown youth are disproportionally sent to adult court, while their white counterparts are more often allowed to remain in juvenile jurisdiction. Under current law, there is no way for youth to appeal the decision to transfer them. This bill would allow that important appeal to occur.
In his moving testimony before the Assembly Public Safety Committee, Narith So, a youth who has experience with this broken system, said “while certain decisions were my fault, I believe the system is also partially responsible for harshly treating a 15-year-old kid for making a mistake. I have had a chance to reflect on my mistakes, but the system was not willing to reflect on the fact that the judge may have made a mistake in transferring my case.”
Together, AB 988, AB 731 and AB 624 provide a comprehensive approach to reform by redirecting and restructuring the justice system in order to save lives throughout the process — from the first emergency call to county recidivism prevention programs.
Information released by the office of Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan