SACRAMENTO, CA - AB 1509, the Anti-Racism Sentencing Reform Act, was introduced by Assemblymember Alex Lee to correct decades of harm done to communities of color through sentencing “add-ons” that have not had significant impacts in deterring crime or enhancing public safety.
Lee recently held a press conference with Asian American civil rights organizations for Asian media to address some of the concerns from the AAPI community about AB 1509 and debunk some of the misconceptions about the bill.
AB 1509 aims to reduce sentence “add-ons” or enhancements which disproportionately punish people of color, duplicately for the same crime without improving public safety. Reducing the use of sentencing enhancements does not mean that there are no punitive actions taken – the person still serves their entire statutory sentence for the crime, and the reduction aims to curtail only the extreme sentencing length of the “add-on” enhancement.
“This bill is about undoing failed policies of systemic racism in our justice system that have led to overincarceration,” said Lee. “When we talk about safety and prevention – what that looks like is universal background checks for gun purchases, making sure guns don’t fall in the wrong hands, and uplifting socioeconomic status for all so violence doesn’t happen in the first place.”
Extreme prison terms have no significant impact in deterring crime, and:
- For each additional year of sentencing, it can increase recidivism by 4 to 7%
- 89% of firearm enhancements are applied to people of color
- 97.7% of people granted parole do not commit new crimes
With these enhancements, the firearm does not even need to be physically recovered for the enhancement to apply at trial, and testimony about the firearm is enough for a sentence add-on enhancement to apply. And, if a firearm is recovered, it does not need to be loaded or operable. Prior to 2018, these enhancements were automatically applied. While there aren’t any credible studies that detail a much higher rate of usage of firearms usage within communities of color compared to their white counterparts, discriminatory criminal justice policies at all stages of the justice system have disadvantaged people of color and have fueled mass incarceration rates.
“If the goal is to create safer communities, then extremely long sentences have been proven to run counter to that objective while costing the state over $112,000 a year for a person to be incarcerated,” said Lee. “When we look at the data from Asian Americans Advancing Justice, only 97.7% of people granted parole were never convicted of new crimes which counters many of the misconceptions.”
The state could instead invest in resources for reentry assistance and other services that can help to promote rehabilitation, reduce poverty, strengthen communities, and tackle some of the root causes of crime such as hunger and housing insecurity.
The bill also does not apply to all statutory crimes and would not apply to:
- Hate crimes
- Great bodily injury (GBI) during human trafficking
- Inflicting or causing GBI during a sexual offense
- Using a firearm during commission of a sexual offense
- Causing GBI or death towards an elderly person
- Kidnapping or robbing an elderly person, gang-involved murder
- Gang-involved shooting from a vehicle with intent to cause GBI or death
- Causing GBI to police officer or other emergency personnel
- Murder during a robbery or kidnapping or carjacking
- Child abuse resulting in death
- Unlawful firearm transaction and use during felony
- Selling or giving an assault weapon to a minor
- Possession of an assault weapon while committing another crime.