Say NO to SB40 - A sidestep that takes away prisoners' hope

Dr. B. Cayenne Bird is an ordained minister and a 37-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. She volunteers her time as founder and director of United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect UNION. The UNION is active in prison reform and criminal justice issues. She is a mother and grandmother and focuses on human rights and restorative justice. She is also the host of television series "Cayenne Common Sense" and publishes a daily online newsletter to subscribers.

March 11, 2007

I can't remember any time in the past decade when I have disagreed with a bill brought forward by Senator Gloria Romero who has done so much for prison reform. But the day has arrived when I must voice strong opposition to her proposed bill SB40 which has already passed the Senate and now goes to the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

It's on a fast-track for approval so we must all move rapidly to let her know that if such a sidestep to the recent Supreme Court ruling re Cunningham is passed, it will take all hope from thousands of prisoners who qualify for shorter sentences.

There are many reasons to oppose it in my opinion but to keep it simple and legal, I have included a letter from Jeff Adachi, Public Defender who has found even more reasons than the fact that it is blatantly unconstitutional to oppose it.

from Jeff Adachi, Public Defender: 


On Tuesday, March 13, 2007, 9:00am at Room 126 in the State Capitol, the Assembly Public Safety Committee will be hearing SB 40, which drastically changes the determinate sentencing law and gives judges power to sentence criminal defendants to aggravated terms without any jury findings. SB 40 was introduced in response to the US Supreme Court's recent decision in Cunningham, where the Supreme Court ruled that California's determinate sentencing law was unconstitutional because it allowed a judge to increase a person's sentence without a jury's finding that the fact relied upon in increasing the sentence was true. 

Public Defender Jeff Adachi believes that this bill will increase gaps in disproportionate sentencing of ethnic minorities and poor people and will undermine current attempts to reform the penal and correctional system. Please join Public Defender Jeff Adachi in opposing this bill. If you are unable to attend the hearing, please send an email to the following email address: 

Jose Solorio, Chair Assembly Committee on Public Safety 
State Capitol Building 
1020 N. Street, Room 111 
Sacramento, CA 95814 

FAX 916-319-3745 


A sample email is attached below along with Mr. Adachi's letter explaining his reasons for opposing SB 40. 

To contact Public Defender Jeff Adachi, please call Angela Auyong at 415-553-1677 or . Thank you! 


Assemblyman Jose Solorio, Chair Assembly Committee on Public Safety State Capitol Building Sacramento, California 95814 

Re: Opposition to SB 40 Amending Penal to Code to Give Judges Complete Discretion to Sentence Criminal Defendants 

Dear Assemblyman Solorio, 

I am writing to express my strong opposition to SB 40, which will be heard before your committee on March 13 at 9:00am. This bill was hastily drafted to counter the Supreme Court's recent decision declaring California's sentencing law unconstitutional. Â Instead of requiring a jury to find factors that could be used to enhance a person's prison sentence, SB 40 gives the sole power to judges. This was not the intent of the determinate sentencing laws, and fails to address the fundamental problems inherent in California's penal system. It will also create greater inequities in sentencing, particularly concerning minorities and poor people who do not have access to adequate legal representation. The assembly should not act in haste to make a decision that will affect thousands of lives and further threaten the efforts towards penal reform. Â I respectfully ask that you vote against SB 40. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you. 


Office of the Public Defender

Jeff Adachi 

City and County of San Francisco 

Public Defender 

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