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Two Criminal Justice Reform Bills Await Gov. Newsom’s Approval

Two crucial criminal justice reform bills, SB 2 and AB 333, have received official approval from the California Legislature and were sent to Governor Newsom for final approval. Here’s what you should know.

SB 2

Senate Bill 2 or SB 2 is a bill that would enforce police accountability and create a system to monitor and penalize criminal behavior among law enforcement. Since summer 2020, the public has become painfully aware of the lack of accountability and threat of brutality from the police.

Those who are supposed to protect and serve have committed atrocities that would land any regular citizen in prison. From the George Floyd protests to the horrific case of Breonna Taylor, police brutality has come to light on the national stage.

As a result, local governments across the country are proposing police accountability laws to try to prevent these cruel and merciless acts in the future. SB 2 would establish a statewide system for removing licenses from violence-prone officers who commit misconduct on the job.

Additionally, Senate Bill 2 would eliminate the clauses in our current laws that excuse violent behavior and give victims a platform to hold the offending officers accountable.

AB 333

Another criminal justice reform bill is AB 333, which modifies gang enhancement statutes. Essentially this bill will elaborate on the definitions and standards of proof necessary to convict someone of gang activity.

In many cases, gang convictions are targeted toward people of color – a consistent practice within the criminal justice system. Often, criminal charges are stacked against the defendant, which increases the period of incarceration.

Many advocates who support this bill see an opportunity to limit the persecution of people of color within the community and stop the trend of using gang activity as evidence of a pattern of criminal behavior and, therefore, an excuse to put people behind bars.

Why Are These Bills Important?

To the rest of the country, California appears to be a stalwart equality state. However, a long history of abuses and racial prejudice still affects our criminal justice system.

A study of racial disparity and inequality in the justice system found that while data and statistics are essential to reform efforts, the general public isn’t as receptive to system-wide change if its approach isn’t right.

According to the study, reformers, lawmakers, and advocates can inform the public’s understanding of discrimination and disparity by following a three-point system.

The three steps are:

  1. Offer context: By giving people the whole story, we can equip them with the truth.
  2. Challenge associations: Outdated associations between people of color and law enforcement often cloud people’s understanding of the system. By challenging stereotypes, we can encourage the public to see disparity for what it is.
  3. Highlight institutions: We establish a starting point for change by identifying the institutions, not individuals, who contribute the most to racism and inequality.

These steps are only the beginning, and bills like SB 2 and AB 333 do a good job of incorporating all three steps so that the public gets the information they need to begin changing things within their communities.

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