SB 40 jeopardizes sentencing reform |

SB 40 jeopardizes sentencing reform

SB 40 was hastily drafted and voted on in the Assembly Public Safety Committee in order to sidestep a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring California’s sentencing laws unconstitutional, in that they give judges the power to sentence criminal defendants to aggravated terms without any jury findings.

My understanding is that this sidestep is not needed because there are currently methods being used in plea agreements and in trial cases to prevent judges from having this unbridled and sole sentencing power.

SB 40, in effect, would sanction the unconstitutional actions of unscrupulous judges that prevent prisoners who qualify for shorter sentences from receiving them, and it would thereby increase the incidence of disproportionate sentencing of ethnic minorities and poor people. Furthermore, this legislative sidestepping would very likely jeopardize current attempts to undertake true and needed sentencing reform in California. Our legislators need to step back and look at the broader issues before passing such a “knee-jerk-reaction” type bill.

Barbara Christie

Arroyo Grande

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