Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Endorses Legislation to Reduce Recidivism
SACRAMENTO – Today Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced her support for two legislative proposals, Senate Bill 1157 and Assembly Bill 1597, that would help individuals reintegrate into their communities and avoid return to custody.
“We must hold criminals accountable for their crimes, but our criminal justice system should also provide tools and support individuals in their efforts to successfully reenter society and rebuild their lives,” said Attorney General Harris. “I applaud Senator Mitchell and Assemblymember Stone for championing ‘smart on crime’ bills that will curb recidivism and help inmates get their lives back on track.”
Senate Bill 1157, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D- Los Angeles), would guarantee that city and county correctional facilities that elect to utilize video and electronic visitation also provide a certain number of in-person visits for their inmates. Research shows that in-person visits are a crucial component of successful rehabilitation and reentry, and cultivating positive influencers in the inmates’ lives has been integral to Attorney General Harris’ recidivism reduction pilot program, Back on Track-Los Angeles. SB 1157 will be heard in Assembly Public Safety Committee this morning, Tuesday, June 21.
Assembly Bill 1597, authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D- Monterey), would enable inmates in county jail who have not yet been sentenced to earn credit reductions toward any resulting sentence by participating in rehabilitative programs and completing performance objectives known as “milestones.” The bill would further specify that an inmate’s participation in such a program could not be used as evidence of guilt in court. Under current law, only inmates who have been sentenced are eligible to participate in these programs and earn time off of their confinement. Studies show that inmates who receive educational and vocational training are much less likely to return to prison and much more likely to succeed upon reentry into the community. AB 1597 was enrolled to the Governor on Friday, June 17, and awaits his signature.
Attorney General Harris has been a longtime leader in the fight to curb recidivism in California. In 2005, then-San Francisco District Attorney Harris created the original Back on Track initiative, a reentry program that aimed to reduce recidivism rates of low-level, non-violent drug offenders. The program successfully reduced recidivism among its graduates to less than 10 percent over a two-year period and was recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as a model for law enforcement.
In November 2013, Attorney General Harris created the Division of Recidivism Reduction and Reentry within the California Department of Justice. The office partners with counties, District Attorneys and other community stakeholders to create effective practices and policy initiatives to address recidivism. The Division has developed a statewide definition of recidivism, identified grants to fund the creation and expansion of innovative anti-recidivism programs, and used technology to more effectively analyze recidivism metrics and data.
In 2015, Attorney General Harris launched Back on Track-Los Angeles, a pilot program in partnership with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and other public and private-sector partners to curb recidivism. Back on Track-LA provides participants with the services and support needed for a seamless transition from in-custody to out-of-custody life, including cognitive behavioral therapy and academic and career-technical training while in custody and employment, housing and continuing education opportunities after release.