2018 Platform: Criminal Justice

We are committed to keeping the public safe.  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 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 and policies to promote school retention and graduation and effectively end the school to prison pipeline.  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 programs of high-quality that are easily accessible for every person with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder;
  • Prevent criminalization of persons who commit low-level offenses or who 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;
  • Call for constitutional amendments striking the slavery and involuntary servitude exceptions from the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 6 of the California Constitution;
  • Oppose the use of prison labor by private companies;
  • Enhance victim-witness advocacy that provides therapeutic assistance, financial compensation, and support for comprehensive services for victims of crime;
  • Support the ongoing legalization, regulation, and taxation of cannabis in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol, while prioritizing the health, education, and safety of California’s communities and the country over revenue or profits;
  • Support contact and communication between families and loved ones who are incarcerated because the strongest predictor of post-incarceration success is 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;
  • Provide individuals on parole and probation with clear information about their rights and responsibilities in order to reduce parole and probation violations;
  • 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, or 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;
  • Work to end police brutality by encouraging local governments to have peace officers personally liable to pay damage awards for excessive force and wrongful deaths that were out of policy;
  • Support the universal use of police body cameras and 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 collection of demographic data in each county for all persons detained, fined, arrested, injured or killed during police encounters that includes ethnicity, language, gender identity, and age;
  • Enforce laws and policies that protect women and men from sexual assault and rape;
  • Prioritize funding for labs to complete all rape kits in a timely manner;
  • Support the use of DNA testing when appropriate to protect those wrongfully accused and set free those wrongfully convicted;
  • Challenge the implementation of "stop and frisk" policies that are disproportionately applied to persons of color;
  • Reform the bail system so that persons awaiting trial do not 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 full civil rights, including the right to serve on juries, of persons convicted of felonies who have served their term of incarceration and probation;
  • Support the establishment of a non-partisan sentencing commission that is mandated to review sentencing laws;
  • Provide balanced funding for public defender and district attorney agencies so that the promise of a constitutionally adequate defense is realized;
  • Reduce prison overcrowding by decreasing penalties and decriminalizing certain drug and other non-violent offenses, implementing 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 on how to properly interact with mentally ill people;
  • Support programs to reduce recidivism to stop the expansion of public prisons, call for the closure of private prisons and jails, and ultimately close at least one public prison;
  • Advocate that the state adopt concrete measures to eliminate the use of solitary confinement;
  • 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;
  • Increase oversight of juvenile justice agencies and implement trauma-responsive justice systems grounded in adolescent development to yield better outcomes for youth and reduce racial inequalities;
  • Support the implementation of restorative justice practices that bring together those who have committed crimes with victims and community members in an effort to recognize and repair the damage caused by criminal activity through accountability and rehabilitation; and,
  • Support partnerships with local building and construction trades councils to provide career training to incarcerated men and women through pre-apprenticeship programs that utilize the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) for future career opportunities.
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