Legislation Introduced to End Mandatory Jail and Prison Sentences for Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Press Release

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Sacramento – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) today announced the introduction of SB 378, legislation that would end mandatory jail and prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. This would repeal state law established during the height of the War on Drugs era in 1986, which enacted these mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. The War on Drugs has since been widely acknowledged as failed racist policy, and its vestiges must be dismantled.

Current mandatory minimum sentencing requirements deny judges discretion to sentence drug offenders to probation in their communities, and they contribute to mass incarceration. Right now, as our jails and prisons see massive spikes in COVID-19 cases, we need to do everything we can to reduce our incarcerated population. Mass incarceration is a public health issue in California, and in the short and long term, we must work to offer non-incarceration options to drug offenders – particularly those struggling with substance use disorder – instead of defaulting to prison or jail time.

Not only is mass incarceration bad for public health, it’s also a giant expense for California in a time when we face massive budget cuts and a potentially catastrophic recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown. Mass incarceration costs our state unnecessary billions that should be going to things like schools, healthcare, and infrastructure.

As our country reckons with the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and begins a massive rethinking of our criminal justice system, we must take seriously the ways we can begin to end our system of mass incarceration. The War on Drugs – and its disproportionate criminalization of Black and brown communities – must end, and SB 378 would repeal one of the era’s worst leftover laws.

Currently, if a prior drug offender is convicted of a second offense for something such as drug possession for personal use, a judge is not allowed to sentence this person to probation. Current law also bans judges from sentencing first-time offenders for a number of nonviolent drug charges to probation. SB 378 would give judges sentencing discretion, allowing them to sentence those convicted of these offenses to probation and rehabilitative programs rather than jail time, if appropriate.

Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) have introduced previous versions of this bill in past years, and will co-author SB 378. It is sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance.

“Incarcerating non-violent drug offenders is the wrong direction for California, and it’s time repeal these jail and prison mandates,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “Mass incarceration is deeply harmful to our state — part of the structural racism afflicting our entire criminal justice system— and we must end it. It makes no sense to force judges to sentence non-violent drug offenders to jail or prison. California’s addiction to over-incarceration tears families and communities apart, doesn’t make us safer, and costs taxpayers dearly. California need to reduce our jail and prison population and begin closing down prisons. Now is the time to take this step toward decarceration.”

“For too long mandatory minimums have forced judges to impose severe prison sentences to those who would be better treated and supervised in their communities under probation,” said Assembly Member Wendy Carrillo. “Judges must be able to evaluate crimes and grant probation when it is in the interest of justice, in the interest of public safety, and is consistent with the values of our communities. SB 378 is a step in the right direction to continue the national discussion around judicial independence, over-sentencing, and mass incarceration.”

“Mandatory minimums have been a significant contributor to mass incarceration and have not made the public any safer,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “This bill ensures that judges aren’t hamstrung in nonviolent drug cases and can exercise their discretion to determine an appropriate sentence in each case.”

“It’s bad public policy to send people to prison for several years for selling the equivalent of 1/4 of a sugar packet of drugs,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “What we have under mandatory sentencing policies are judges who are unable to make the very decisions we pay them to make. SB 378 will help to restore the discretion of judges and make it possible to shift resources to more treatment and support for people struggling with addiction.”

“Mandatory minimums are a remnant of the failed, costly and racist War on Drugs,” said Glenn Backes, policy consultant for Drug Policy Alliance. “Current law ties the hands of judges, they are powerless. This bill gives the judge the authority to order probation services and supervision, when it makes sense given, local norms and local resources.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. Two piece of shit liberal politicians letting more criminals out of jail. Boudin is the biggest gap toothed, piece of garbage to ever be elected! Couldn’t believe even SF was stupid enough to vote him in.
    How is it racist??
    Dont sell drugs, dont commit crimes!
    Pretty simple!!
    Working , non criminal, contributing members of society’s lives matter!!!

  2. “Mandatory minimums have been a significant contributor to mass incarceration and have not made the public any safer,” (This is a Lie if law breakers are in Jail; we are all safer) said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “This bill ensures that judges aren’t hamstrung in nonviolent drug cases and can exercise their discretion to determine an appropriate sentence in each case.”

    So if you were wondering why we have homeless, retail theft, property theft, auto theft, violent crime, mental health issues, and violent crime it all starts with Drugs and Drug Abuse. When will everyone understand this. If you have been a victim of crime or know someone who has been a victim of crime; this should matter to you.

    Scott Wiener, Chesa Boudin all left wing politics. If you want to filthy streets and crime add SB 378 to the list of laws that have enabled criminal activity. Please do your research on what these left wing Marxist are doing too your state.

  3. This is a terrible idea, maybe one of the worst. It’s time to be tougher on crime. These attorneys will just continue to plea bargain cases down to avoid incarceration. The reason is all money. The state is losing so much revenue they do not have the funds for prisons. Open up businesses and slam the door on the criminals.

    • The goal of a modern society is to close more prisons, reflecting a safer citizenry. The USA imprisons more people than the next 5 countries combined. Private prisons are a complete disgrace to civil liberties and the freedoms our founding fathers imagined for our country. Rehabilitation should be the focus. And this is for NON-VIOLENT offenders, you dork.

    • Marijuana is legal all over the country now. It has many medicinal uses and there are 0 cases of death associated with it’s use. Many of these Black men (40% of the incarcerated population are black men although they only make up 13% of the population so yes American Patriot – it is racist – read about the Southern States Strategy after Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act) so these are not hardened criminals – nor are they all homeless people JG – they are people that chose to smoke a little dope just like millions of others that aren’t in jail. Now, the dispensary liscences are being handed out to corporate america – so the black men rot in jail for the same thing that the white men are getting rich from AND the corporations are working with the FOR PROFIT jail system to have these people work for pennies – they are still enslaved – just in a different way. 2.2MM people are incarcerated in this country – the most in the entire world and this is supposed to be the land of the free? Senator Wiener – thank you for starting to tackle this problem!

      • Woah there SJW, it is in fact not racist that black men make up most of the prison population, black men commit more than half of all murders in America.

      • You say that there have been no death associated with the use of marijuana? I beg to differ! There are abut 8 cases where a driver, high on a combination of marijuana and booze crashed into a vehicle on the freeway where a CHP officer was investigating why the car stopped. The occupants of the car were killed along with the CHP officer. In another incident, a woman and two children were wiped out thanks to a marijuana-ingesting driver who lost control of his car and plowed into them. So,, there were deaths associated with marijuana.

  4. Jeremy – Your the SUPREME DORK
    Obviously a mindless sheep liberal
    YOU ARE A COMPLETE DISGRACE

    Try to do better

  5. We should always have more freedoms, I disagree with the whole “the war on drugs is racist” part, but as a whole there should be no jail time at all for nonviolent drug offenders.

  6. The issue is that these non violent drug offenders are the core of the homeless. They should be incarcerated to a mental/drug facility. The revolving door for non incarcerated offenders is a huge burden on the justice system and law enforcement. They clog up the system allowing more serious offenders to slip through. Combat the homeless burden by incarcerating the repeat offenders in mental/drug facilities. Don’t throw them back on the street. That has proven not to work.

  7. And just which law do you propose to cite to incarcerate an individual in a mental/drug facility? And where/how do you propose building these facilities? By raising taxes which in CA are among the highest in the nation already?

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