California Public Defenders Oppose Governor Plan to Slash Funding for Successful Resentencing Program 

Creator: isayildiz | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

By Elina Sadeghian 

SACRAMENTO, CA – Public defenders are urging California legislators to block Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal that would diminish a successful resentencing program.

“In recent years, the Legislature passed significant reforms to address harsh and unjust sentences,” said Manu Raju, Public Defender of San Francisco.

But, he added, “those eligible for shorter sentences need public defenders to help bring their cases to judges to review. The resentencing program does that.”

Proponents of the resentencing program claim it fulfills this crucial role, noting for a cost of less than 0.02 percent of California’s budget, public defenders have utilized this program to spare thousands of years of incarceration, resulting in substantial savings for taxpayers.

According to SF County Chief Public Defender Brendon Woods, “This program offers immense benefits at a small expense, particularly in a state that tends to allocate $1 billion more to prosecutors than public defenders.”

Public defenders charge the governor’s proposal for discontinuing the resentencing program would be disastrous for already underfunded public defender offices, the people they serve, and their families.

The PDs explain the Public Defense Pilot Program, which the Legislature established in 2021 with Senate Bill 129, would have its third year of funding slashed under the proposal. The program had set aside about $50 million each year for three years starting in 2021.

They note these funds were used by county public defender offices all over the state to support resentencing units, which hire attorneys, social workers, and paralegals to review cases, ask local courts for resentencing, connect clients to resources after release, and represent other clients at parole hearings.

“We’re grateful the Legislature has recognized our current system of punishment is outdated and unfair, especially when it comes to our Black and Brown communities. But these laws don’t implement themselves,” Woods said.

“We need resources to hire people to do the intense work of investigating cases and filing proposals for resentencing. Gutting our budgets to do this work just as we’re getting going is short-sighted, to say the least,” he added.

Thousands of Californians continue to be incarcerated for sentences that are excessive or illegal, and without this program, they would have little recourse, the public defenders note.

Raju stated, “This successful program addresses the fact that over-sentenced community members, many of whom are BIPOC, have little recourse for making sure they get out when they’re entitled to; this painful proposed cut is out of step with what Californians want. It means fewer families can be reunited, and it means less healing and rebuilding of impacted communities.”

SF District One Supervisor Connie Chan has also introduced a resolution to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, urging the Legislature to restore funding for the highly successful re-sentencing program that helps Californians eligible for release from prison get back to their communities.

About The Author

Elina is a freshman at UC Davis double majoring in International relations as well as Cinema and Digital media. She is passionate about protecting fundamental human rights and helping raise awareness about various social issues through journalism. Elina is bilingual in both Farsi and English.

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