SB 136 repeals a commonly used and expensive one-year sentence enhancement that is added to each prior prison or felony jail term that an individual has served
(From Press Release – SACRAMENTO)–Today, the California Assembly Public Safety Committee approved Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation to repeal a one-year sentence enhancement that is added to an individual’s base sentence for each prior prison or felony jail term served. SB 136 will now head to the Assembly Appropriations committee.
“I personally understand the compounding damages and complications that unnecessary sentencing enhancements can cause for individuals trying to get their lives in order,” said Tony Renee, a member of a community-based organization in San Diego, Pillars of the Community. “In 1993, while addicted to drugs and living on the street, I sold fake marijuana to an undercover police officer who had solicited me for the purchase. Due to my history of arrests, and compounding sentencing enhancements, I signed a plea deal for ten-years for this crime. While many defense attorneys implored prosecutors and judges to send me to drug treatment, sentencing enhancements force the justice system to dole out harsh and ineffective punishments.”
This commonly used one-year sentence enhancement is unjust, ineffective, and fuels mass incarceration in California. It can add years to someone’s sentence, resulting in double punishment for people after they’ve served their time for past convictions.
“In our current justice system, ‘time served’ is a falsehood,” said Geneviéve Jones-Wright, community advocate and deputy public defender with the County of San Diego Office of the Primary Public Defender. “The state of California allows for a one-year sentence enhancement if someone convicted of a new felony has previously served a term of custody in state or local prison. SB 136 will eliminate this. Heaping more prison time on people’s heads solely because they’ve already served time in prison makes no sense. In a legal system already fraught with injustices, these types of enhancements are the proverbial salt in the wound. California can do better than re-punishing people, re-traumatizing communities, and re-charging the taxpayer.”
Currently, if an individual is convicted and has served time in jail or prison for a prior felony, a one-year enhancement is added to their sentence even if other harsher enhancements already apply. Significant research refutes that these enhancements help to deter individuals from committing future crimes, reduce recidivism, or increase public safety. Instead, these enhancements put a significant financial burden on taxpayers and families statewide.
“An additional year on a person’s sentence for a prior conviction is both immoral and ineffective,” said Amber-Rose Howard, Statewide Co-Coordinator, Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “This one-year enhancement destabilizes families and does not make our society safer. It’s time to repeal this policy failure and continue to move California towards true justice.”
The enhancement addressed by the bill impacts about one-third of people serving time in California prisons. Because each year of incarceration costs approximately $80,000, this enhancement is therefore extremely expensive to taxpayers. The one-year enhancement addressed by SB 136 is but one enhancement among a myriad of enhancements available under California law.
According to CDCR, as of December 2018 there were over 15,000 counts of this particular enhancement added to sentences of incarcerated individuals. This is a conservative estimate, as it does not take into account local county jail sentences impacted by the one-year enhancement. California currently spends over $80,000 each year to imprison an individual. These sentence enhancements are thus very expensive, harm state and local budgets, and shift dollars away from desperately needed community services.
SB 136 does not alter an individual’s base sentence for their current felony charge or amend any other enhancements for violent, repeat offenders.