Senator Leno Introduces Groundbreaking Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

Press Release February 26, 2012
Media Contact

Theshia Naidoo 510-229-5214 or Tommy McDonald 510-229-5215</p>

SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, Sen. Mark Leno introduced SB1506, which reclassifies simple drug possession offenses as misdemeanors, thereby reducing the potential sentences for these offenses from a maximum of three years imprisonment to a maximum of one year in county jail. The bill is co-sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

“Sen. Leno’s bold and forward-thinking legislation is a sharp break from the policies which helped create California’s prison overcrowding crisis,” said Theshia Naidoo, staff attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This bill is a recognition that imposing felony sentences for simple drug possession offenses simply does not work. Such sentences are disproportionate to the harm they seek to prevent, have no meaningful deterrent effect, and offer no answer to the problem of recidivism.” said Naidoo.

Classifying these offenses as felonies places enormous burdens on individuals, communities, and the state as a whole. The consequences of a felony conviction – which include barriers to employment, housing, education and public benefits – can be more onerous than the sentence itself. A felony conviction can haunt someone for the rest of his life. Too many have already found themselves branded as “felon” because of these minor offenses, which by definition are nonviolent and non-serious.  Treating such minor offenses as felonies does not serve the interests of justice and does not serve the interest of the people of California.

“The real crime is the law that treats drug possession for personal use as a felony,” said Ethan Nadelmann. “Sen. Leno’s bill aspires to a more civilized society in which citizens are spared the stigma of a felony conviction, and in which taxpayers are spared the indignity and waste of $2 billion over the next ten years.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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