Matt Sutton 212-613-8026
Los Angeles, CA – Yesterday, California State Senator Scott Wiener (San Francisco) introduced SB 73, a bill—sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance—that gives judges more discretion to order probation and other alternatives to incarceration for certain drug offenses.
“Allowing judges the discretion to order supervised probation as opposed to jail time is a step in the right direction to address the racial inequities in our criminal legal system,” said Jeannette Zanipatin, CA State Director for Drug Policy Alliance. “SB 73 is one critical reform that California can take to reduce mass incarceration, which costs California billions of dollars each year that the state should be investing in schools, infrastructure, healthcare, job training and other critical services to make our communities and economy stronger.”
Existing law forces judges to apply harsh mandatory minimum sentences and prohibits them from granting probation or suspending a sentence for people convicted of certain drug offenses if the individual has previously been convicted of any one of an expansive list of drug felonies or if they are caught possessing over a certain amount of some substances.
Mass incarceration has been devastating to the California budget and California families. Mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses force judges to lock up individuals who would be better off remaining in their communities, where they could access treatment if necessary, as well as other services.
There is an expanding, bipartisan consensus that mandatory minimum sentences are not cost-effective in combating drug use, sales, or crime. Evidence shows that mandatory sentences for drug offenses do not improve public safety, but instead exacerbate existing racial disparities in our criminal legal system and disproportionately impact those suffering from substance use disorders, mental illness, and homelessness. This bill is an important step forward in reversing outdated reliance on ineffective and harmful mandatory minimum sentencing policies.