Skinner’s SB 1025 to Give Courts Discretion on Sentencing for Nonviolent Drug Offenses passes State Senate, now on way to the Assembly

May 31, 2018

Skinner’s SB 1025 to Give Courts Discretion on Sentencing for Nonviolent Drug Offenses passes State Senate, now on way to the Assembly

Today, with bipartisan support, the California Senate passed Senator Nancy Skinner’s (D-Berkeley) SB 1025, legislation that will give judges discretion to grant probation for certain nonviolent drug offenses. Skinner’s bill must now pass the Assembly and be signed by Governor Brown to become law.

“Incarceration can be a counterproductive way to deal with nonviolent drug offenses,” Skinner said. “SB 1025 recognizes that people who are convicted of drug crimes often need addiction treatment and mental health care.” 

California law currently prohibits judges from factoring specifics of the case when individuals are charged with certain nonviolent drug crimes. Judges are forced to apply a mandatory sentence instead of considering probation or other alternatives.

Mandatory sentences imprison individuals who in some cases might be better treated and supervised in the community. According to an extensive report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, mandatory sentences for people who are coping with addiction have led to overcrowded county jails, strained state and local budgets, and have failed to reduce drug use, crime or harm. By restoring a modest level of judicial discretion, SB 1025 would strengthen the state’s ability to invest in drug prevention and mental health treatment instead of imprisonment.

Overwhelming evidence has shown that mandatory sentences for drug crimes not only fail to improve public safety, but also exacerbate existing racial disparities in the criminal justice system and disproportionately impact those suffering from mental illness.

“When it comes to nonviolent drug crimes, prison is an expensive solution with relatively little benefit,” said Skinner. “Giving judges the ability to exercise discretion will allow us to shift resources away from unnecessary incarceration and into treatment.”

Senator Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) represents the 9th Senate District. She serves as Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary.