Action Alert: Last Committee for AB 1008 – Ban the Box, & SB 180 RISE Act Goes to the Floor!

Help Get Our “Ban The Box” Bill Out Of The Final Committee! 

Cal. AB 1008 infographicAB 1008 (McCarty) passed out of the California State Assembly and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. We need your help to pass AB 1008 out of this final committee by calling the seven members on the Sentate Judiciary Committee listed below and have them tally your support for the bill. 

AB 1008 will extend Ban the Box / Fair Chance Hiring policy to private employers, removing the “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” question from employment applications and prohibiting employers from performing a background check until after they extend a conditional job offer. Removing this barrier to employment allows formerly incarcerated and convicted people a chance to interview in person and be evaluated according to skills and experience relative to the job.

Please call the Judiciary Committee Members by end of day Monday, July 10:

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (Chair) – (916) 651-4019 
(If you make only one call, make it to Senator Jackson!)
Senator John M. W. Moorlach (Vice Chair) – (916) 651-4037
Senator Joel Anderson – (916) 651-4038
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg – (916) 651-4018
Senator Bill Monning – (916) 651-4017
Senator Henry I. Stern – (916) 651-4027
Senator Bob Wieckowski – (916) 651-4010

Feel free to use this sample script:

Hello, my name is __________ from [town in CA]. 

I am calling in support of AB 1008, the Fair Chance Hiring bill. 

Formerly incarcerated people already face many barriers to re-entry, and they/we need access to meaningful employment to take care of families and contribute positively to the community. 

Please extend California’s “Ban the Box” policy to private employers and give formerly incarcerated and convicted people a chance to show employers their skills and potential. 

[Share personal experience here, if applicable or possible—keep it short!] 

True public safety is created through employment, housing, and community. 

Please pass AB 1008 and add me to the support tally you keep for your Member. 

Thank you. 

[Bonus: if one of the members represents your district, let them know!]


WAIT! WHILE YOU HAVE YOUR PHONE IN YOUR HAND!
Help Pass the RISE Act! 

SB 180 - RISE Act - Sandra in committee 01 2SB 180 (Mitchell) is on the Floor of the Assembly and headed for a vote! The Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Enhancements (RISE) Act will end the three-year sentencing enhancements for certain prior drug convictions, a practice that, as LSPC Policy Fellow Sandra Johnson (at right) told the Public Safety Committee earlier, does nothing to help people with drug issues and just wastes human lives and taxpayer money.

We need your help to pass SB 180 by calling your Assemblymember and have them tally your support for the bill.

Can’t stop, won’t stop? Call these key Assemblymembers:

Assemblymember David Chiu (San Francisco) – (916) 319-2017
Assemblymember Evan Low (San Jose) – (916) 319-2028
Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (San Mateo) – (916) 319-2022

Feel free to use this sample script:

Hello, my name is __________ from [town in CA].

I am calling to ask you to vote yes on SB 180, the RISE act which ends the three-year sentence enhancements for drug related prior convictions.

These unnecessarily long enhancements do not increase public safety because they do not address the real proble which is often substance use and addiction. Sentence enhancements do not stop people from selling drugs; they do not stop people from using drugs; they do not stop people from committing felonies; they do not improve public safety.

The current system spends tax money on prison sentences instead of what we need to spend money on such as mental health counselling, drug addiction treatment programs, education, and vocational training.

I am asking you to prioritize funding these services that actually help people and improve public safety in our communities. Please pass SB 180 and add me to the support tally you keep for your Member.

Thank you.


 

AOUON-Logo-Circle w SpanishAnd thank YOU for taking the time to support AB 1008 (McCarty), SB 180 (Mitchell), and all the current and formerly incarcerated people and our family members.

We’ll need your help again when AB 1008 heads to the floor for a final vote, so keep up the fight!

For more information about our Ban the Box Campaign, check out our Toolkit here!

Landmark Lawsuit Settled, Paves Way for Fair Treatment of Low-Income California Drivers

Solano County adopts model policies that lessen the burden of traffic fines and fees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 8, 2017
Media Contacts:
Linda Kim, Bay Area Legal Aid
, Lkim@baylegal.org, 510-250-5218
Bethany Woolman, ACLU of Northern California, bwoolman@aclunc.org, 415-621-2493

San Francisco, CA – A settlement was reached today in the first lawsuit in California to challenge the suspension of driver’s licenses as a means of collecting unpaid traffic fines. The lawsuit was originally filed on June 15, 2016 against Solano County Superior Court, challenging the court’s practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of people who could not afford the astronomical price of traffic tickets.

“Having to choose between food and a traffic fine is not a choice at all,” said Jane Fischberg, President and CEO of Rubicon Programs, a plaintiff in the suit. “This settlement gives us hope that we are finally moving away from unjust systems that criminalize poverty. We applaud the Solano Court’s good faith effort to make the system more equitable – so that everyone in our communities has an opportunity to achieve economic mobility.”

Prior to the lawsuit, the Court routinely failed to notify traffic defendants of their right to demonstrate they were low-income and unable to pay the fines – which the suit alleged was unlawful. The Court also lacked a mechanism for low-income drivers to seek a reduction in the fine or an alternative to payment based on their poverty.

Today, the parties filed a settlement that achieves the goals of the lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement, the Court will notify every traffic defendant of their right to be heard regarding their “ability to pay.” The Court will update all notifications to traffic defendants, including its website, the oral advisements provided by traffic court judges, and the “notice of rights” handout given to all traffic defendants. The new notices explain the traffic defendants’ rights to ask the Court for a lower fine, a payment plan, or community service if they are indigent.

Further, the Court agreed to change its procedures for assessing a defendant’s ability to pay. For traffic defendants who are homeless, receive public benefits or are low income, the Court has agreed to consider alternative penalties that do not involve payment of a monetary fine – such as community service.

“We hope that Solano’s reforms will be a model for other counties to follow,” said Rebekah Evenson, Director of Litigation and Advocacy at Bay Area Legal Aid. “We laud the Solano County Superior Court and Presiding Judge Fracchia for working with us to reform their traffic system in a way that treats low-income drivers fairly and equitably.”

“We appreciate that the governor and legislature recently put an end to the harmful practice of using license suspension to punish low-income people who can’t afford to pay costly tickets,” said Christine Sun, Legal Director at the ACLU of Northern California. “Now we’d like to see counties across California follow Solano County’s example and address the exorbitant traffic fines and fees structure that plunges people into a cycle of poverty.”

A 2017 study by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Paying More for Being Poor: Bias and Disparity in California’s Traffic Court System, showed that Californians pay some of the highest fines and fees in the country—which can devastate the lives of Californians with lower incomes.

People of color also bear a disproportionate amount of this burden. The study’s Bay Area data revealed that African-Americans are four to sixteen times more likely to be booked into county jail on a charge related to inability to pay a citation. Because of over-policing in communities of color and racial profiling, African-American and Hispanic individuals are more likely to receive traffic tickets than are white and Asian individuals and are far more likely to be cited solely for driving with a license that was suspended for failure to pay or appear in traffic court.

The lead plaintiff in the suit, Rubicon Programs v. Superior Court, is Rubicon Programs, a nonprofit that provides comprehensive employment, career, financial, legal and health & wellness services to thousands of low-income people across the Bay Area. Additional plaintiffs in the suit include the ACLU of Northern California, and Henry Washington, a low-income Hayward resident whose license was suspended because he could not pay a “fix-it” ticket. Plaintiffs were represented by:

  • The ACLU of Northern California
  • Bay Area Legal Aid
  • The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR)
  • Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
  • Western Center on Law & Poverty

 

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PRESS RELEASE: Advocates Commend Governor for Remedy to Address California Modern Day Debtor’s Prisons

June 27, 2017

California will no longer suspend low-income motorists’ licenses because they can’t afford to pay minor traffic tickets

 

SACRAMENTO–Today, Governor Brown approved the state’s $183.2 billion budget, which included funding to end the harmful and ineffective practice of suspending someone’s driver’s license because they can’t afford to pay a minor traffic ticket. Advocates applauded the move, citing the disparate impact license suspensions have on low-income people of color.

 

“License suspensions and arrests for failure to pay traffic citations have created modern day debtor’s prisons in California,” said Brittany Stonesifer, Staff Attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. “Unable to pay their citations, people already struggling to make ends meet are saddled with debt through an unjust process that fuels unemployment and feeds into mass incarceration.”

 

California has the highest traffic fines and fees in the country–often costing nearly $500 for just one violation. That is an insurmountable burden for many Californians. The resulting driver’s license suspensions have forced people into a vicious cycle of debt and poverty that can be difficult to break. A 2015 report, Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California, details how California has suspended over 4.2 million drivers’ licenses simply because people could not afford to pay an infraction ticket or failed to appear in court. Currently, a ticket in California for an infraction – such as a broken tail light, expired tags, or bus fare evasion – can ultimately lead to a suspended driver’s license if someone does not pay or make their court appearance.

 

“No one should lose their freedom, job, or be torn from their families and communities because they live in poverty,” said Mike Herald, Director of Policy Advocacy with the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “With 78 percent of Californians driving to work, a license suspension makes it nearly impossible for some to earn the wages needed to pay the ticket, which can result in arrest and job loss.”

 

According to a survey by the U.S. Federal Reserve, 46 percent of Americans do not have the financial resources to pay $400 for an emergency expense without having to sell something or borrow money. Moreover, advocates point to a recent report, Stopped, Fined, Arrested – Racial Bias in Policing and Traffic Courts in California, highlighting that driver’s license suspensions for failures to appear or pay a ticket disproportionately harm indigent individuals and people of color.

 

“Relying on excessive ticketing of black and brown people to fund government functions is an immoral practice that must be abolished,” said Elisa Della-Piana, Legal Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “Our justice system was intended to do just that: deliver on its promise of justice – not use law enforcement as debt collection agents.”

 

By ending the harmful practice of using license suspension to force low-income people to pay for expensive tickets, the state’s new budget will help many Californians keep their jobs and stay out of jail. Advocates praise this important move, but continue to urge lawmakers to adopt meaningful and long-term solutions to address the other serious problems that still exist in California’s traffic court debt system, like making fines fairer. Currently, lawmakers are considering SB 185 (Hertzberg), a bill that would require courts to evaluate someone’s ability to pay a fine, to reduce a fine by 80 percent and dismiss any remaining debt after four years if a defendant is very low-income, and to more clearly notify people of their rights in traffic court.

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ACLU of Northern California
Community Housing Partnership
East Bay Community Law Center
Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Western Center on Law & Poverty

Public Defender to Hold Press Conference and Rally on Thursday to Oppose Plan to Hold Oakland Arraignments at New Courthouse in Dublin

OAKLAND, Calif. – Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods will host a press conference Thursday, June 29, to announce a coalition opposing plans to hold all in-custody arraignments at the new Dublin courthouse set to open in July.

The event will be on the historic steps of the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland and Woods will speak along with families of criminal defendants, formerly incarcerated and others concerned that moving arraignments from Oakland to Dublin will result in more people being held in jail while they fight their cases.

The Public Defender’s Office, which represents the majority of criminal defendants, has formed a coalition of local politicians, non-profits and activists to oppose the plan, which recently was announced by Alameda County Presiding Judge Morris Jacobson. The Dublin courthouse, officially known as the East County Hall of Justice, originally was to host only South County arraignments, including those currently at the Hayward and Pleasanton courthouses.

North County arraignments – including Oakland, Berkeley and Albany – currently are held at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. The Dublin courthouse is approximately 30 miles away and is one mile from the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station.

Arraignment is a critical point in a criminal case because that’s when criminal charges are announced and the court sets bail or chooses to release someone on their own recognizance. It must take place at a location that is readily accessible to defendants’ families, who need to attend in person in order to provide essential information to the court, including community ties and employment.

If families are unable to travel the extra 30 miles to Dublin, more defendants will remain in custody for longer periods of time, particularly defendants with the lowest income and the least serious charges.

WHAT: Press conference
WHEN: 12:15-1:15 p.m. Thursday, June 29, 2017
WHERE: East steps of Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, 1225 Fallon St, Oakland

 

Here is a list of coalition members:

1)      American Civil Liberties Union

2)      Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff

3)      Oakland Vice Mayor and Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington

4)      Assembly Member Rob Bonta

5)      Assembly Member Tony Thurmond

6)      Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan

7)      Oakland City Councilmember Abel Guillen

8)      Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb

9)      Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid

10)   Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks

11)   Oakland City Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington

12)   Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney

13)   Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan

14)   East Bay Community Law Center

15)   Ella Baker Center

16)   Equal Justice Society

17)   Silicon Valley De-Bug

18)   Essie Justice Group

19)   Bay Area Legal Aid

20)   Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

21)   Disability Rights Education Defense Fund

22)   Urban Peace Movement

23)   All of Us or None

24)   The Asian Prisoner Support Committee

25)   A. L. Costa Community Development

26)   CURYJ

27)   Participatory Defense Movement

28)   Root and Rebound

 

Write a Letter to Support AB 1008 / Ban the Box!

Dear friends and allies,

Thank you for your interest in advancing AB 1008 (“Fair Chance Act”) (McCarty). We made it through the Assembly in a close vote earlier this month thanks in large part to your support letters, tweets, calls, visits, and emails. But we’re not finished yet!

The bill was just double-referred to two Senate committees, which means additional letters of support are needed to show the broad popularity of ban the box. Here is a sample support letter.

We ask that you please fill in the missing information, place it on your letterhead, and submit it via email as soon as possible – by June 21st if you can!

1. The Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee has scheduled AB 1008 for a hearing on Wednesday, June 28th at 9:30 am. That means letters of support are due to the Senate Labor Committee by this Wednesday, June 21st.

2. The bill will also go to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and we expect the hearing to be held on Tuesday, July 11th at 1:30 pm.

By June 21st, please email your letters to martha.gutierrez@sen.ca.gov (Senate Labor Committee) and timothy.griffiths@sen.ca.gov (Senate Judiciary Committee) and CC bavery@nelp.org (NELP) and cristina.salazar@asm.ca.gov (Asm. McCarty’s Office).

Please feel free to share this request with other California organizations that might be interested in supporting AB 1008. And thank you again for your support!

Sincerely,
Co-sponsors of AB 1008 (NELP, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, All of Us or None, and Time for Change Foundation)

Formerly Incarcerated People’s Western Regional Summit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 9/18/2015
CONTACT – Denise Mewbourne 415-625-7050 (W); 510-967-9821 (cell);                                  denise@prisonerswithchildren.org

LSPClogo-high-resFormerly Incarcerated Community Leaders Host Historic Western Regional Convening
A Discussion Where the Grass Tops and the Grass Roots Meet

(Oakland, CA) – Formerly incarcerated people are convening this Sept. 20-21 to share their expertise on ending mass incarceration, criminalization, and the second-class status of people convicted of misdemeanors or felonies. The Western Regional Conference is being organized by Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), All Of Us Or None, and the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement. It will be held at The Oakstop, and over 300 formerly incarcerated people and their families from six western states are expected to attend. Thirty elected officials, federal government Reentry Council members, funders and non-profit directors are also confirmed.

The two-day convening will have panels on Sunday, and a Peace and Justice Summit on Monday. Both days feature formerly incarcerated people and their families speaking as experts on their own lives and on solutions for their communities. Presenters will analyze how structural oppression drives mainstream thinking about formerly incarcerated and convicted people, and how we can challenge and change this thinking.

“What does democracy look like for people who are disenfranchised, who cannot hold public office, and cannot sit on a jury of our peers?” said Dorsey Nunn, executive director of LSPC and co-founder of All Of Us Or None. “These two days will be a rare opportunity for communities heavily impacted by incarceration to share our expertise – our needs, challenges, concerns, and hopes – to people who are representing our interests.”

All Of Us Or None, a grassroots organization fighting for the human and civil rights of formerly and currently incarcerated people, are the originators of the Ban the Box campaign. Ban the Box has built up movement through cities and states, and now has federal momentum. Without legislative protection of this kind, many qualified candidates are turned away from job openings before their application is fully reviewed. So, among other panels, the first day will feature several on Ban the Box-related issues – housing, employment, and education.

The second days’ Peace and Justice Summit centers around panels of formerly incarcerated experts sharing information about our needs before an Active Listening Panel of community and spiritual leaders, government employees, funders, and elected officials. Many of the active listeners are already working to end mass incarceration, and undo its debilitating impact on communities. Here is a partial list of notable people attending to bear witness to formerly incarcerated people’s expertise:

  • Desley Brooks, Oakland City Council
  • Keith Carson, Supervisor, Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 5
  • Karen Connor, Division Chief, Employment & Training Administration, US Dept. of Labor
  • Kimberly Ferguson, Senior Community Planning and Development Representative, US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
  • Dana Johnson, Oakland Office Director, EEOC
  • Karol Mason, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, US Dept. of Justice
  • Amy Solomon, Director of Policy, Office of Justice Programs, US Dept. of Justice
  • Abdi Soltani, Executive Director, N. CA. ACLU
  • Tirien Steinbach, Executive Director, EBCLC
  • Lul Tesfai, Senior Policy Advisor, US Department of Education
  • Steven Wiener, Administration for Children and Families, US Dept. of Health and Human Services

One active listening participant, Keith Carson (Alameda County Board of Supervisors), says that “It is essential that all levels of the government and our diverse communities recognize the need to eradicate discrimination against individuals who have spent time in correctional institutions or been impacted by the criminal justice system. The protection of the civil, political and the economic rights of the formerly incarcerated is embedded in the founding principles of our nation, and it is the responsibility of those in leadership positions to uphold them.”

“It is absolutely imperative we use every opportunity to talk to each other right now, when the issue of mass incarceration and the broken criminal justice system that produced it are daily public discourse,” Nunn said. “This conference is about collectively advocating for reform at the local and national level for formerly incarcerated or convicted people.

Our event flyer is here, and registration is on Eventbrite.

 

 

Community Leaders Object to Secret San Francisco Jail Construction Plan

Originally posted on Californians United for a Responsible Budget.

The San Francisco County Sheriff has plans of “rebuilding” the Hall of Justice jails (top two floors of HOJ, around 800 beds). According to Sheriff Mirkarimi “Our jails at the Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant Street, were seismically damaged during the 1989 earthquake.  The building is in constant disrepair and unsafe.”

San Francisco jails have been at about 62-65% of it’s total jail capacity for almost two years. There are approximately 900 empty jail beds county jails every single day.

Protesters argue that the unsafe facility should be closed immediately, that the county has the opportunity to reduce its total jail capacity from 2400 to around 1600 beds and invest the projected costs of the jail into community-based alternatives.

“I know firsthand that justice stops at the doors of 850 Bryant, and other San Francisco jails. Let’s demand better outcomes and stop the absurd idea that building a state of the art jail will make San Francisco safer.”  Manuel La Fontaine, a member of All of Us or None, a project of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.