2016 Platform: Criminal Justice

Crime prevention and rehabilitation are essential to our families, our communities, and the state budget. We are dedicated to ensuring that our criminal justice system provides fair and equitable treatment for all.  "Smart on crime" must include evidence-based criminal justice prevention programs and investment in alternatives to incarceration and services as the best use of taxpayer funds.

We are committed to ending mass incarceration in California prisons and jails. We need to prioritize building schools, not jails. We must invest in proven strategies to prevent crime including providing structured preschool and afterschool programs for youth, as well as programs to promote school retention and promote graduation. We will work to end the practice of racial profiling, from surveillance through charging and sentencing;

To promote safe communities for all, California Democrats will:

  • Provide drug treatment of high-quality that is easily accessible for every person with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder;
  • Prevent criminalization of persons who commit low-level offenses or create a “public nuisance” related to homelessness or mental illness, by directing them to public health and housing services, rather than resorting to arrest;
  • Support abolishing capital punishment;
  • Enhance victim-witness advocacy that provides therapeutic assistance, financial compensation and support for comprehensive services for victims of crime;
  • Support the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol; prioritizing the health and safety of California’s communities over revenue or profits.
  • Support contact and communication for families and loved ones who are incarcerated - there is no stronger predictor of post incarceration success than family support. Invest in programs that assist families in visitation, communication, and planning for re-entry. End the practice of housing Californians in out-of-state jails and prisons;
  • Recruit and retain law enforcement officers who are trained to work effectively in cross-cultural situations;
  • Support law enforcement officers with excellent pay and benefits, and hold them accountable for misconduct. Dismiss any peace officer that does not uphold the high standards and trust afforded them by the community and government;
  • Implement the policies and practices of de-escalation that enable law enforcement to work in a safe and productive manner rather than resorting to physical restraint, violence, arrest or the threat of restraint, violence or arrest in the face of anger, disagreement or resistance that is not a threat to the peace officer or others;
  • Insist on independent investigators in cases of police use of deadly force;
  • Support the universal use of police body, dashboard and prisoner compartment cameras; support rules requiring police officers to mitigate injuries by responding appropriately to requests for medical assistance or in situations where a suspect has been injured or killed during a police encounter;
  • Support the collection of data in each county about demographic characteristics such as ethnicity, language, gender identity age citizens detained, fined, arrested, injured or killed during police encounters;
  • Prioritize funding for labs to complete all rape kits in a timely fashion;
  • Support the use of DNA testing when appropriate to protect the wrongfully accused and set free the wrongfully convicted;
  • Challenge the implementation of "stop and frisk" policies that are disproportionately applied to persons of color;
  • Overhaul the bail system so that persons awaiting trial are not forced to languish in jails solely because they and their families are too poor to pay for bail;
  • Remove barriers to accessing public benefits for people with felony convictions, including victim services;
  • Work to restore the full civil rights, including the right to serve on juries, of persons convicted of felonies who have served their term of incarceration and supervision;
  • Support the establishment of a non-partisan sentencing commission that is mandated to review inequitable sentencing laws;
  • Provide balanced funding for public defender and district attorney agencies so that the promise of a constitutionally adequate defense is realized;
  • Work to reduce prison overcrowding by decreasing penalties and decriminalizing certain drug and other non-violent offenses, implement state law provisions for compassionate release and release for older, long-term prisoners, and support community service as an alternative sentence for low risk individuals;
  • Oppose using prisons and jails as de facto mental health facilities and fight to adequately fund community mental health and substance abuse programs;
  • Ensure that law enforcement and prison workers are trained how to properly interact with mentally ill people.
  • Oppose the expansion of public prisons and call for the closure of private prisons and jails;
  • Advocate that the state adopt concrete measures to eliminate the use of solitary confinement for adults and minors;
  • Oppose youth being held in adult prisons and jails; end the practice of trying juveniles as adults;
  • Support youth parole by providing review for all sentences committed before the age of 23, including sentences of Life, Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) and determinate sentences; and,

Support the implementation of restorative justice practices that bring together people who have committed crimes, victims and community members in an effort to repair the damage caused by criminal activity through accountability and rehabilitation.

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