Criminal Justice

California adopts criminal justice reforms in bills signed by governor

  • Print.

shutterstock_Criminal Justice Reform with gavel

Image from Shutterstock.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several criminal justice reform bills into law ahead of a midnight deadline Friday.

The new laws will make prison phone calls free, restrict the use of rap lyrics in prosecutions, and seal criminal records for some offenders, according to the Marshall Project’s Monday newsletter.

But Newsom vetoed a bill Thursday that would have limited solitary confinement to no more than 15 consecutive days, or 45 days in a six-month period, report the San Diego Union-Tribune. The bill also would have barred the use of solitary for vulnerable populations that included pregnant women, people with certain disabilities, and younger and older people.

Newsom said in a veto statement he supports limits to solitary confinement, but the California bill was too expansive and could put staff members and prisoners at risk.

The bills signed by Newsom will:

    • Automatically seal conviction records of many felony offenders if they avoid conviction for another felony for four years after their sentences end. Arrest records will also be sealed. The new law wouldn’t allow automatic sealing, however, for people required to register as sex offenders and people convicted of serious or violent felonies. (The Sacramento Bee)

    • Require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to pay for inmate phone calls in state and local detention facilities, rather than shifting the costs to the inmates. (Protocol, the San Francisco Chronicle)

    Restrict the use of rap lyrics and other creative works as evidence in criminal proceedings. The bill requires judges to weigh the “probative value” of the artistic evidence against the “substantial danger of undue prejudice” that could result if it is admitted. (Deadline)

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.