Governor Jerry Brown has before him two bills which would usher in significant prison reforms for the State of California. The first is bill AB1270 that would allow the media greater access to prisoners. Since 1996, reporters have not been allowed to schedule interviews with prisoners. Instead, they can either hope to run into an inmate randomly while on a guided tour of the prison or they can have a 15 minute long phone interview with prisoners who have access to a telephone line. Under this new bill, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, reporters would be able to schedule and record interviews with prisoners using recording equipment. The bill, which has the support of the prison guard’s union and also various civil rights’ groups, has passed the State Senate in a 21 to 13 vote.
The second bill up for Governor Brown’s signature is Senate Bill 9 or “The Fair Sentencing of Youth Act” which would directly impact 300 juveniles who are currently in the State’s prison system. A ruling made by the California Supreme Court on August 16th ruled that juveniles who committed non-homicidal crimes must get a chance at parole in their lifetime. On that same day Senate Bill 9, drafted by Democratic Senator Leland Yee, passed the State Assembly. SB 9 would allow prisoners to petition for parole after being in prison for 15 years if they show sufficient remorse and have not committed a crime that involved torture or the killing of a police officer. If the bill were signed it would change the current laws which were passed by public referenda in the 1990s, allowing the sentencing of some 16 and 17 year olds to life without parole.
GUEST: Donald Specter, Executive Director of the Prison Law Office based in California
Visit the Prison Law Office online at www.prisonlaw.com
Inmates can write to the Prison Law Office only about their conditions of confinement, and only in writing at the following address: Prison Law Office, General Delivery, San Quentin CA.