California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday signed a law ending mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, The Associated Press reports.
Newsom signed a bill passed by the state legislature and authored by San Francisco state Rep. Scott Weiner, who slammed mandatory minimums for disproportionately incarcerating Black and Latino people for nonviolent drug crimes.
“Our prisons and jails are filled with people — particularly from communities of color — who have committed low-level, nonviolent drug offenses and who would be much better served by non-carceral options like probation, rehabilitation and treatment,” Weiner said in a statement. “It’s an important measure that will help end California’s system of mass incarceration.”
Current law bans judges from sentencing first-time nonviolent offenders convicted of low-end drug offenses. It also bans probation for repeat offenders convicted of certain opioid, marijuana, or prescription drug offenses.
Mandatory sentences can range from two to seven years.
The California Association of Highway Patrolmen argued that the mandatory minimums “work as a deterrent or a reason for individuals to get the treatment they need to turn their lives around.”
The group claimed that the new law will increase the sale and use of drugs and lead to other crimes.
The group said the bill “sets a dangerous precedent … and would jeopardize the health and safety of the communities we are sworn to protect.”
But years of research have shown that mandatory minimums disproportionately impact people of color and have had little to no deterrent effect.
Newsom also signed a bill expanding on an existing law limiting the use of the felony murder rule.
The rule previously allowed people who aided in felonies to be convicted of murder if someone died during the crime.
The state in 2019 limited the law to only apply to those who intended to kill, directly participated in the killing, or acted with “reckless indifference to human life.”
The new law also applies that standard to voluntary manslaughter and attempted murder charges and allows convicts to apply for resentencing.
Newsom also signed a law that creates the presumption that those arrested for violating their probation be allowed to remain free pending a hearing unless they pose a safety or flight risk.