Across California and the United States, the push for bail reform has gained momentum with increasing awareness and research showing the disproportionate impact the money bail system has on people of color and low-income households. Enter Proposition 25 that will appear on the November 3, 2020 statewide ballot and asks California voters to decide whether a 2018 state law that effectively ends money bail should take effect. If voters approve Prop. 25, judges will be able to utilize risk-based assessment tools – examining population links between rearrest or reconviction and individual factors such as age, gender, or criminal record – to determine if individuals detained for certain crimes can be released before a court appearance rather than posting money bail.
In recent years, California has taken steps to reform its approach to criminal justice, including reducing incarceration and promoting more effective pathways to rehabilitation. The Budget Center provides research and analysis about reforms to California’s criminal and juvenile justice systems that can improve outcomes for individuals and identify opportunities to invest money in preventive services.
Over many years, California lawmakers and voters adopted a series of harsh, one-size-fits-all sentencing laws that prioritized punishment over rehabilitation, led to severe overcrowding in state prisons, and disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx Californians – consequences that many families still feel today. California began reconsidering its “tough on crime” approach a little over a decade ago as prison overcrowding reached crisis proportions and the state faced lawsuits filed on behalf of incarcerated adults. Ultimately, a federal court in 2009 ordered California to reduce overcrowding to no more than 137.5% of the prison system’s capacity – an order that remains in effect today.
Recent acts of police brutality against Black Americans and greater public outcry over the continued abuse and deaths of people across Black communities have amplified calls for defunding, abolishing, and reimagining local policing. This also comes with growing understanding that police violence has disproportionately fatal consequences for Black men and women, and Black transgender women in particular.The calls to action involve significantly transforming the mission and structure of local law enforcement, divesting from local law enforcement in its current forms, and reinvesting the freed-up funding into community-building capacities that would also seek to end racial profiling and police brutality against Black people and other people of color.
As policymakers consider the state’s fiscal outlook, as well as the health of all Californians, it’s important to know that California spends more than $13 billion per year from the General Fund on state corrections. The cost per incarcerated adult at the state level is around $90,000 per year. Crisis or not, policymakers can better protect the health of incarcerated adults – over 70% of whom are Black or Latinx – and of prison staff by further reducing overcrowding and focusing on services that are proven to create safer communities.
Prisons and jails have been turned into “America’s…new mental hospitals,” even though it is clear that correctional facilities are highly inappropriate places to house and treat people with mental illness. In this fact sheet learn why California must continue to improve health care for people who are incarcerated and why reforms are also needed to address the connections between mental health and the criminal justice system so that Californians who need mental health treatment receive the appropriate care in a timely manner rather than being confined in state prisons or county jails.