A state Senate bill headed to Gov. Jerry Brown would reduce sentence enhancements for some low-level, nonviolent drug offenses, part of a push by Democratic legislators to help young people facing charges or doing time in California.
Under current state law, a person convicted for sale or possession for sale of a small amount of drugs can face a sentence of three to five years behind bars, plus an additional three years in jail for each prior conviction for similar drug offenses.
The legislation, by Sens. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), would repeal the three-year sentence terms for each prior conviction. It moved out of the state Assembly on Tuesday with a 41-25 vote.
Another bill by Mitchell and Lara was sent to Brown last week and would limit the collection of costly court and administrative detention fees against their families. Three more proposals in the legislative package remain pending.
Juvenile justice bills have been at the center of several advocacy and outreach efforts organized this year by actor, activist and musician Common and a coalition of criminal justice organizations, as lawmakers weigh a number of legislative proposals meant to advance the state's shift away from tough-on-crime policies.
On the Senate floor, Mitchell has called the sentence-enhancement bill a modest reversal of harmful policy under the so-called war on drugs, which disproportionately targeted minorities and has not stopped the flow of narcotics. Supporters urged approval of the bill to counter the direction on drug crimes taken by U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, who directed federal prosecutors to pursue "the most serious, readily provable offense" in drug cases.