Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sentencing Commission Bill Continues On

Legislative breaking news: The Sentencing Commission Bill, which was amended on April 13, has gone through the Committee on Appropriations, whose primary jurisdiction is fiscal bills, and is back before the assembly. An analysis of the bill, authored by Asm. Jose Solorio, has a positive take on establishing the sentencing commission, citing, among other sources, the Little Hoover report on the California Corrections Crisis. The report, as some of you may recall, dispelled myths about sentencing commissions, and as you'll see in the original Little Hoover press release, tried to dissuade politician fears that having a sentencing commission means being "soft on crime":

The Commission recommended that the State begin a comprehensive evaluation of its sentencing system by establishing an independent sentencing commission with the authority to develop sentencing guidelines that become law unless rejected by a majority vote of the Legislature. The Commission said California should learn from states with effective sentencing commissions, such as Virginia and North Carolina.

"Critics who suggest that a sentencing commission is a code word for shorter sentences are misinformed,” Alpert said. “Other states have used sentencing commissions to lengthen sentences for the most dangerous criminals, to expand community-based punishment for certain offenders and to bring fiscal responsibility to criminal justice policies.”

The Commission asserted that the Supreme Court ruling on January 22, 2007 that found California’s determinate sentencing law unconstitutional provides one more impetus for an independent commission to conduct a systematic review of California’s sentencing laws and propose long-term solutions.

The analysis also details the many times in which sentencing commission bills came before the Assembly and failed. Will our economic concerns lead politicians to leave behind their fears of being soft on crime and fix the sentencing system? Stay tuned!


Frank Courser said...

It appears all the language has been stripped in this bill. Can it still be effective?

Hadar Aviram said...

That really depends on the composition of the commission, Frank. Some of the previous language was very confining in its definitions of aims of punishment. However, there's also the fact that the current version doesn't exactly specify what the powers of the commission are.

I don't know why the bill was amended, but I imagine it was partly so that it would not suffer the premature death of its many predecessors.