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Three Legislative Bills Seek to Reform Incarcerati...

Three Legislative Bills Seek to Reform Incarceration in California

Jerome Dixon convicted of a murder he didn’t commit spent 21 years in jail, now exposes students to experiences relative to the judicial system, illustrating the notion of making better choices for the greater good.
Over 50 people from various agencies and alliances last Wednesday urged  state legislators to pass  Equity and Justice Package, SB 1391, SB 1392 and SB1393 introduced by Senators Ricardo Lara (D) Long Beach and Holly Mitchell (D) Los Angeles.

The Equity and Justice Package, if passed, would mean that youth who are 14 and 15 years old who commit crimes would be tried as juveniles, not as adults.

The package also eliminates excessive sentencing enhancements.  SB 1393 would allow judges to use their discretion to decide if a five year enhancement is necessary.

Zakiya Prince, a social worker  from the Bay Area, gave her personal testimony in support of the three bills.  She has been married to her husband since 2016, who is serving his 16th year of a 35 year-to-life sentence.  Ten of those years are due to him receiving two mandatory five year sentencing enhancements.

Mr. Prince is serving time for a crime in which no one was hurt or threatened.  However,his prior convictions were used to strike him out, requiring him to be  given 25 years to life.

“I’m not here to insinuate that my husband should not serve time for his offenses,” said Mrs. Prince.

“I testified before the committee to express the adverse effects excessive sentencing have on every day, hard-working people like myself.

“One out of every four women has a loved one who is incarcerated, women like myself who suffer from secondary traumatic stress from the incarceration and having to deal with the financial, emotional and mental strain.

“Enhancements added 10 more years before I can start a life with the man I love.”

Jerome Dixon, another advocate, said, “As a high school junior I was arrested by the Oakland Police Department as a suspect in a murder investigation.

“I was questioned without parental notification, and after 25 hours of interrogation, I was coerced into signing an incriminating statement which was used against me.

“Twenty-one years later at my 2011 parole hearing, and after numerous appeals to lawyers, journalists and judicial stewards, the Prison Parole Board had difficulty comprehending the facts surrounding my incarceration and released me in October 2011.

“I now tour the country speaking about my ordeal as a juvenile and speak on social reform with respect to juvenile justice, racial profiling and self identity.  I harbor absolutely no animosity towards the system for what happened to me.”

Senator Nancy Skinner (D) Oakland, who chaired the hearing, said, “The 3 Strikes Law is an abject failure. We need to do better and start looking at rehabilitation.”

Senator Jeff Stone (R) Riverside, the lone dissenter. said, “I know there is a philosophy here to rehabilitate people, but my number one priority is public safety.

“We should push Proposition 57 and 47 because consequences send a message to those considering criminal activity.  One thing we’re not hearing today is the voice of the victims and how their lives were affected.”

Responding, Senator Mitchell said, “Those bills don’t touch on mandatory minimums or the victims of race bias, economic status or the lack of legal representation that places more people of color in jail.”

The Equity and Justice package passed in the Public Policy committee and now will be heard by the Appropriations Committee.   Many bills die in this committee.


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