First look at new bills

The legislative session is just getting underway, with new bills being introduced. We try to track those that are of particular impact to lifers, either specifically or because they may offer ways to alter sentencing. Here's a first look at a trio of bills that could, if passed, have a major impact on lifers, LWOPs and other long-term inmates.

We'll track these bills, and we may put out a call to action to you, to write, call email your state legislators in support or opposition, depending on the bill or changes in any given bill. Those emails will be titled CALL TO ACTION--so keep an eye out. Right now these bills are being assigned to committees for consideration and hearings.

SB 248: (Introduced Jan. 21, 2021, Sen. Bates, R, Laguna Hills)

This bill would require that proceedings for the civil commitment of a sexually violent predator be in open court, on the record, unless the court makes certain express findings, including that there exists an overriding interest, based on compelling and extraordinary circumstances, that overcomes the right of public access to the proceedings. The bill requires that there be 10 days’ notice to all parties in a proceeding before the closure.

For an individual who is in custody under the jurisdiction of the department for the commission of a new offense committed while the individual was serving an indeterminate term in a state hospital as a sexually violent predator, would require the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to refer the person directly to the State Department of State Hospitals for full evaluation as to whether the person still meets the criteria as a sexually violent predator. The bill would, if the evaluators concur that the requirements are still met, require the Director of State Hospitals to petition the court to either return the person to the State Department of State Hospitals to continue serving the remainder of the individual’s original indeterminate commitment as a sexually violent predator if the original petition has not been dismissed, or to forward a request for a new petition to be filed if the original petition has been dismissed.


SB 300: (Introduced Feb. 2, 2021, Sen. Cortese, D, San Jose)

This bill would repeal the provision requiring punishment by death or imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole for a person convicted of murder in the first degree who is not the actual killer, but acted with reckless indifference for human life as a major participant in certain specified violent felonies.

The bill would also provide a procedure for incarcerated inmates previously convicted under that provision and awaiting execution or serving a sentence of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole to petition the court to recall the sentence and resentence the inmate.

Existing law provides for various specified special circumstances, including the murder of a peace officer, firefighter, or witness, which, if found true as specified, require a defendant found guilty of murder in the first degree to be sentenced to death or imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole and prohibits a judge from striking or dismissing those circumstances. This bill would repeal the provision prohibiting a judge from striking a special circumstance.


AB 328: Introduced Jan. 16, 2021, Assembly members Chiu, D-San Francisco; Kalra, d-San Jose and Wicks, D-Oakland)

This bill would establish the Reentry Housing Program. The bill would require the department to, on or before July 1, 2022, take specified actions to, upon appropriation by the Legislature, provide grants to counties and continuums of care, as defined, for evidence-based housing and housing-based services interventions to allow people with recent histories of incarceration to exit homelessness and remain stably housed.

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