(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Today, Assemblymember Bonta (AD-18) introduced a bill to continue moving California’s prison system away from the hyper-punitive approach that characterized the era leading to mass incarceration and toward a system that centers rehabilitation, humanity and healing. AB 1104 changes California’s penal code to make clear that the purpose of incarceration is rehabilitation and preparation for reentry, not levying additional punishment.
Current law states that the purpose of sentencing is “public safety achieved through punishment, rehabilitation, and restorative justice” but is silent on the purpose of incarceration. AB 1104 states that “the deprivation of liberty satisfies the punishment purpose of sentencing.”
“My bill calls for incarcerated individuals being afforded enhanced opportunities for restorative justice, trauma healing, education, and participation in community-based programming designed to assist in successful reintegration after release,” explained Assemblymember Bonta. The purpose of this legislation is to speed the process away from the failed policies of the past, and toward a healing and restorative future inside of California’s prisons.
“Moving the prison system of California toward a system that prioritizes rehabilitation, healing, and restorative justice is both smart in the sense of better outcomes and more humane. A more humane and healthy environment for prison residents is also a safer and healthier workplace for staff. In my work with the Norwegian prisons, I have found that humanity and effectiveness reinforce each other. Our Penal Code should reflect these principles.” (Brie Williams, MD, Professor of Medicine at UCSF, Director of Amend at UCSF)
Despite their important role in providing rehabilitative programming throughout the prison system, community-based prison programs receive less than 1% of CDCR’s $14B annual budget. AB 1104 facilitates the continued success and expansion of community based programs by clarifying that prisons should not serve to increase suffering and pain and instead invest in healing and growth through the participation of community-run programs.
“This small but significant change to the California Penal Code enshrines the idea that programs provided by the community have an important role in the rehabilitation of incarcerated people. It’s long past time to move away from the antiquated eye-for-an-eye approach, which has failed at every level. We are excited to support this crucial step toward bringing more humanity into the prison system.” (Ken Hartman, Director of Advocacy, Transformative in-Prison Workgroup)
In line with Governor Newsom’s efforts to move the state’s prison system closer to the Norwegian Model of corrections, this bill further centers the ideals of a more humane and compassionate prison system. Investing in the rehabilitation of incarcerated people is an investment in California’s future. It is also another step in the long process of dismantling the racist, classist, and cruel systems of imprisonment in this country.
“Community based organizations provide an essential lifeline to incarcerated people. Its time our laws reflect how much we value and prioritize their contribution to successful rehabilitation and healing,” concluded Assemblymember Bonta.
AB 1104 (Bonta) is sponsored by The Transformative in-Prison Workgroup (www.thetpw.org), a coalition of 85 community-based organizations providing rehabilitative programming inside all of California’s prisons.
AB 1104 is expected to be heard in the Assembly next month.