AB 1104 Ensures California Prisons are for Rehabilitation and not Levying Additional Punishment
(Sacramento) – AB 1104, a bill introduced by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) to ensure California prisons continue to move towards a more rehabilitative approach—while also emphasizing the central role of community-based organizations—has been signed into law, allowing the state to take progressive steps into rehabilitative, restorative, and transformative change for incarcerated people.
“AB 1104 emphasizes the importance of incarcerated individuals being afforded opportunities for restorative justice, trauma healing, education, and participation in community-based programming designed to assist in successful reintegration after release,” explained Assemblymember Bonta. “Simply put, the deprivation of liberty due to incarceration, in and of itself, satisfies the punishment aspect of sentencing, and that the purpose of incarceration is to rehabilitate a person so they can be successfully reintegrated into the community.”
In 2016, the legislature directed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to create a mission statement that moved away from punitive punishment and towards a more restorative justice approach. However, California’s Penal Code does not align with and has not been adjusted to reflect this momentous change in mission, value, and goals.
Additionally, the Penal Code fails to reflect the importance or role of community-based programs in prisons. The California prison system requires a shift in culture to provide incarcerated people with the support and resources needed to reintegrate back into society. Community-Based Organizations are best positioned to provide these quality services to incarcerated people and decrease the chances of recidivism.
“This bill supports the California Model, which must include the full participation of community-based organizations in transforming the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. For too long, our prison system has said the right words but continued to adhere to outdated and ineffective punitive policies. It’s time to make changes on the ground that will advance safety and accountability for all of California. It’s time for our prisons to reflect our values in more than words,” stated Kenneth Hartman, Director of Advocacy for the Transformative In-Prison Workgroup, the sponsor of this bill.
California requires a significant paradigm shift in how we think about incarceration, rehabilitation, and re-entry services. More than 95 percent of incarcerated people will be released back into the community.
“Californians want to hold people who cause harm accountable, but they also want them to have access to programs that will enable them to successfully reintegrate into society. By all accounts, our decades-old approach of warehousing people is a demonstrable failure with overcrowded prisons and high recidivism rates. Today, with the signing of AB 1104, we begin to right this course,” stated Jim Lindburg with the Friends Committee on Legislation of California.
“Currently, CBOs are funded at less than half of one percent of the entire CDCR budget and that is a missed opportunity. The significance of this bill in restructuring our Penal Code and uplifting the work Community-Based Organizations do in prisons is not lost on me. This year, having served as Chair of Budget Sub-5, I worked to increase opportunities for CBOs. I am confident this bill will help to continue to push the needle in that direction,” stated Assemblymember Bonta upon learning her bill was signed into law.
AB 1104 goes into effect January 1, 2024.