San Francisco Public Defender Office Sponsoring 4 California Legislative Measures Designed to Reshape Current Justice System, Promote ‘Fairness and Racial Equity’

By Noah Friedlander
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By Vaiva Utaraite

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Mano Raju, the elected Public Defender of San Francisco, announced last week his office is co-sponsoring four key California legislative measures in the 2023 legislative session “to increase fairness and racial equity in the criminal legal system,” as stated in the press release.

Raju added, “these bills will make urgent system changes that advance our vision for a more just and equitable society.”

The first of these bills is AB 881, also known as “Be The Jury CA,” which would “increase jury diversity in California [by raising] juror pay so that economic hardship is no longer a barrier to the fair delivery of justice,” stated 19th District Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-SF).

Ting said the bill would increase “jury pay for criminal cases to $100 per day of jury service for low to moderate-income Californians,” and would  eliminate the need for low-income families to “file a claim of financial hardship” just because they “cannot afford to forfeit days, weeks, or months of their salary.”

Ting added the bill would “promote more economically and racially diverse jury panels across the State so that they accurately reflect community demographics.”

The second bill the SFPD is sponsoring is AB 1306, known as the “Harmonizing Our Measures for Equality (HOME) Act.”

Assemblymember and author Wendy Carillo (D-LA) said the measure “would ensure that Californians are not excluded based on where they were born from benefiting from criminal justice reforms that were passed by this legislature.”

Carillo added the bill would also “prevent the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) from transferring to federal immigration authorities individuals who have earned release through these reforms.”

When immigrants and refugees are released to ICE, they are “subjected to the double punishment of ICE detention and deportation,” and lack an abundance of civil rights, such as a “lack of due process, no appointed legal counsel, and no right to bail,” argued Carillo.

The bill will “reunite families, strengthen communities, and further the state’s commitment to addressing racial injustice and upholding our values of fairness and equality,” said Carillo.

The third bill backed by SFPD Office is AB 1497, better known as “The Justice of Survivors Act,” introduced by District 17 Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-SF)

This bill would ensure “that survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other violence can share their victimization stories in court and allows judges to consider these stories when making sentencing decisions,” explained Haney.

The current legal system criminalizes “over 90 percent of human trafficking victims” who “are often arrested and punished simply for protecting themselves or their family’s lives,” noted Haney, adding, “a survivor’s trauma is used against them, ignored, or not accounted for during legal proceedings.”

Currently, AB 124 is in place, which allows “courts to consider the experiences of survivors of sexual violence, human trafficking, and other violence in cases of non-violent crimes,” stated Haney.

AB 1497 would expand “the protections under AB 124, so that all survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other violence have the chance to rebuild their lives and access the resources they need to heal from their trauma,” said Haney.

The fourth bill, AB 1186, is known as “The REPAIR Act,” introduced by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Alameda). REPAIR stands for “Realizing Equity while Promoting Accountability and Impactful Relief,” stated Bonta.

“This bill will provide crime survivors with more equitable and stable compensation while setting youth who have caused harm on a more meaningful path towards rehabilitation and accountability,” said Bonta.

“(P)eople who experience loss or injury are made to rely on payment of restitution in order to receive compensation,” noted Bonta, adding “because most youth cannot pay, only a fraction of crime survivors ever receive any compensation.”

According to records from the Berkeley Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, only “20 percent of youth restitution ordered since 2010 has been collected statewide.”

The concept of mandated restitution payments for youth negatively affects them, following them into adulthood, said Bona, adding, “AB 1186 will allow youth to make amends through non-monetary and youth appropriate alternatives.”

This bill would make it so that “youth who have caused harm will participate in community service, restorative justice, or personal development programs to facilitate healing and accountability in place of paying restitution,” said Bonta.

“Crime survivors in crisis need immediate help and care, and the current system of restitution is failing to meet our needs,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice.

Melanie Kim. State Policy Director for the San Francisco Public Defenders’ Office, said, “We and our coalition partners around the state look forward to these bills passing through the legislature and being signed into law by Gov. Newsom this year.”

“Our priority bill package this year is focused on promoting racial and economic justice, disrupting cycles of harm to system-impacted community members, and reducing incarceration,” said Kim.

About The Author

Vaiva is a senior at California State Univeristy of Long Beach pursuing a major in Criminal Justice and Criminology, and a minor in Psychology. She is set to graduate in May of 2023. Vaiva has always had a strong passion in understanding and helping people, doing whatever she can to bring justice to those that have been wronged. Originally, she was born in Lithuania but has lived in Massachusetts since the age of three. She is set on making California her new home after graduating and strives to become a homicide detective. Vaiva is fluent in both English and Lithuanian.

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