Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) has authored a bill to provide a ‘second look’ to Californians sentenced to death or serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The Senator’s bill, SB 94, would allow individuals to petition for judicial review on special circumstance offenses specified in Penal Code 190.2 committed before June 5, 1990, after they have served at least 20 years of their sentence.
Creating a process for the review of cases that have not been looked at in decades, judges will have the discretion to leave a sentence unchanged or to resentence an individual to a lesser sentence.
“The Legislature has adopted several laws over the last decade that take into account mitigating factors when imposing a sentencing, including reforms for victims of intimate partner violence, human trafficking, or those with intellectual disability,” says Senator Cortese. “This has, in essence, created an inequitable system whereby individuals are locked into extreme sentences from decades ago that are inconsistent with our present-day sentencing schemes.”
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)’s California Static Risk Assessment tool reports that 88% of people serving life without parole have been assessed with the “lowest risk” score on that scale, with conclusive researching confirming that elderly individuals are unlikely to re-offend upon release. For those individuals that were previously sentenced to life without parole and then granted a commutation and released in California, the recidivism rate is zero percent.
Glenn Backes of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights says, “California’s rapidly aging prison population is creating a public health crisis that comes at a significant cost to the state. This bill allows judges to look at very old cases and consider mitigating factors, including advanced age and reduced risk, when considering whether sentences imposed in the 1970s and 1980s are still in the interest of justice.”
April Grayson of the Young Women’s Freedom Center says, “There are people languishing in prison, who if they were sentenced today, would get a more just sentence. This bill identifies a relatively small group of very old cases, from 1990 and before, for judicial review and consideration of resentencing consistent with current state law.”
SB 94 is sponsored by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the Felony Murder Elimination Project, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Families United to End Life Without Parole, and The Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition.