There are millions of people of color affected by the failed War on Drugs, but there's a bill in the California State Senate named SB 180 that would limit adding three-year prison terms on top of base sentences for repeat drug convictions. SB 180, also known as The Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Act, would reverse the ineffective policies of the War on Drugs and free up tax payer dollars to reinvest in community programs that would actually improve the quality of life in neighborhoods across California and especially here in San Diego.
Read our letter of support below.
April 11, 2017
Senator Nancy Skinner
State Capitol, Room 2059
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Support for SB 180 (Mitchell) Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Enhancements (The RISE Act)
On behalf of Alliance San Diego, a community empowerment organization with a voter base of 90,000, I write in strong support of SB 180, the Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Enhancements Act. The RISE Act would repeal the three-year sentence enhancement for prior drug convictions, with an exception for convictions involving a minor. This extreme punishment has failed to protect communities or reduce the availability of drugs, but has resulted in overcrowded jails and prisons, harsh sentences, and crippled state and local budgets. By repealing this expensive and ineffective punishment, funds will be freed to reinvest in community programs that actually improve the quality of life and reduce crime.
The RISE Act would begin to undo the damage of the failed Ware on Drugs. The long sentences that were central to the drug war strategy utterly failed to reduce drug availability or the number of people harmed in the illicit drug market. Controlled substances are now cheaper and more widely available than ever before, despite a massive investment of tax revenue and human lives in an unprecedented build-up and fill-up of prisons and jails that have devastated low-income communities of color.
The RISE Act is urgently needed. Counties around the state are building new jails to imprison more people with long sentences, funneling money away from community-based programs and services.
Since 2007, California has spent $2.5 billion on county jail construction - not including the costs borne by the counties for construction and increased staffing, or the state's debt service for these high-interest loans. Sheriffs have argued for this expansion by pointing to their growing jail populations, particularly people with long sentences and with mental health and substance use needs. By reforming sentences enhancements for people with prior drug convictions, SB 180 will address the rationale for costly jail expansion, allowing state and county funds to be invested in programs and services that meet community needs and improve public safety, including community-based mental health and substance use treatment, job programs, and affordable housing.
The RISE Act will reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites.
Further, sentence enhancements based on prior convictions target the poorest and most marginalized people in our communities -- those with substance use and mental health needs, and those who, after prior contact with police or imprisonment, have struggled to reintegrate into society.
For these reasons, among others, our organization strongly supports SB 180 (Mitchell) and we respectfully urge you to vote "Aye" on this urgently needed reform.
Associate Director, Alliance San Diego