UPDATE: Senate Bill 1437 will be heard & voted on in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, June 26th - your support is critical to ensuring that this bill moves forward!
Please join the chorus of voices in favor of fair & just sentencing in CA by sending a support letter below. The deadline to send letters in by is next Tuesday, June 19th.
We are sending letters to Chairman Jones-Sawyer because he is the Chair of the State Assembly Public Safety Committee where SB 1437 will be heard mid-June.
Directions : 1. Click on the SEND MESSAGE button above. 2. Fill in/build on the letter template with YOUR information. 3. Hit SEND and verify your email address to submit.
SB 1437 SUPPORT LETTER TEMPLATE
The Honorable Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr.
Chair, Assembly Public Safety Committee
State Capitol, Room 5132
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: Support for Senate Bill 1437 (Skinner)
Dear Chairman Jones-Sawyer, Sr.,
I am a resident of [name of town] (or) [name of organization], [short description of organization] based in [name of town], is writing to request that you support Senate Bill 1437, a bill that would bring reform to accomplice liability and give much needed relief to people who are serving disproportionately long sentences for a homicide that person did not commit. Our penal code contains an antiquated legal doctrine in which individuals are automatically liable for first degree murder if a death -- even if accidental, unforeseen, or otherwise unintended -- occurs during the commission of certain crimes. This life sentence is imposed even if a person did not kill, nor aid the killing, nor act with any intent to hurt anyone. While it is important to hold those who endanger public safety accountable, especially those who commit serious crimes, it is also critical that the punishment imposed be proportional to an individual's culpability.
As current law stands, these rules disengage us from principles of justice and fairness. It is time for California to follow the steps of dozens of other jurisdictions, including Ohio, Michigan, Arkansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts by finally addressing the unfairness in existing accomplice liability law in our statutes.
It is also imperative to reform these laws as these laws disproportionately impact youth of color and women. Surveys indicate that approximately 70% of women imprisoned pursuant to the felony murder rule were accomplices, not the actual perpetrators of the act that led to death. Nevertheless, because of the acts of others, they are subjected to life sentences. Moreover, the majority of those incarcerated as accomplices pursuant to this rule were under the age of 25 at the time of the crime. Most young adults, and many adults for that matter, are unlikely to anticipate that a robbery might result in a death. Neurological research concludes that the adolescent brain is not fully formed until early adulthood, and that young people do not have adult levels of judgment, impulse control, or the ability to foresee the consequences of their actions. Through their early twenties, young people are continuing to develop into the adults they will become; the vast majority of youth outgrows the type of behavior that leads to crime.
It is important to note that this bill does not end criminal liability for accomplices in crime; those who participated in the underlying crime will still be charged for their participation in the crime. Those who actually caused the death will still be liable for murder; those who aided the murder with the intent to cause death will still be liable for murder; those who acted with reckless disregard for human life will still be liable for murder. Defendants will be held accountable and will be appropriately sentenced based on their level of participation in the homicide.
Finally, it is very important that provisions for just re-sentencing remain a part of SB 1437. First, for many years, California has sought to address prison overcrowding and to reduce unnecessary expenditures on incarceration. The state should focus our resources where they are most needed. It costs California more than $70,000 a year to incarcerate one person. By focusing our resources on the cases that are a threat to public safety, passage of SB 1437 would save millions of dollars for California. Second, if there is a law that needs amending because it is applied in an unjust manner, justice requires that those who are currently imprisoned under this unjust law must receive the benefit of the change.
I strongly support SB 1437 and respectfully request that you vote to pass SB 1437.
[Print your name, title]
cc: Restore Justice: firstname.lastname@example.org
All Members of the Assembly Public Safety Committee
The Honorable Nancy Skinner, California State Senate
David Billingsley, Consultant, Assembly Public Safety Committee
Gary Olson, Public Safety Consultant, Republican Caucus
OTHER MAILING OPTIONS
Please download support letter templates below and send to your representatives using your preferred method. Note that two letters are available: one for individuals and one for organizations. If you are writing on behalf of your organization, please print the letter directly onto your organizational letterhead and be sure to include the date, description of your organization, and include a signature, name and title at the bottom.
Please e-mail a PDF file of your signed letter to YOUR representatives AND send a copy to SB1437@restorecal.org. Feel free to contact us with any questions. We deeply appreciate your support!
TIPS FOR WRITING TO AN ELECTED OFFICIAL
Address the letter properly: Know your legislator’s full name, correct spelling and title. If you are uncertain, call the legislator’s office to get the correct information or look it up online at www.assembly.ca.gov.
Always include your last name and your address: A letter cannot be answered if there is no return address or if the signature is not legible.
Use your own words: Form letters and petitions may be helpful as a launching point, but this kind of correspondence tends to be identified as an organized campaign and is often answered with a standard reply. A thoughtful and factual letter carries more weight than a form letter or printed postcard. However, petitions are still useful to let legislators know that an issue is important to a large group of individuals.
Time the arrival of your letter: Write to your legislator and the chairperson of the committee dealing with the bill in which you are interested while the bill is still in committee. This will ensure there is still time to take effective action.
Be clear about the topic of your letter: Identify the bill or your issue of concern to you by referring to the bill’s number or its popular title.
Be brief and constructive: If you disagree with the approach of a bill, explain what you believe to be the correct approach.
Give the reasons for your opinion: Explain how an issue would affect you, your family, community, business or profession. Concrete, expert arguments for or against a bill can often influence a legislator’s opinion. You may also want to include articles, editorials or other supporting materials to help make your point.
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