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Influx of state prosecutors continues cycle of mass incarceration and will harm Black and Brown communities

OAKLAND – Using state lawyers to prosecute local cases will fuel mass incarceration and the further devastation of Black and Brown communities, said Alameda County Chief Public Defender Brendon Woods.

“They’re trying to use a band-aid to fix a broken arm,” Woods said. “More prosecution and more police is not the solution here. We need housing, money for community-based organizations, higher wages, employment, as well as money for our schools, medical care and mental health.”

Woods is responding to the announcement by California Gov. Newsom and state Attorney General Bonta that they are sending lawyers from Bonta’s office and the National Guard to assist prosecuting cases in Alameda County and Oakland.

“People turn to crime because they have a sense of hopelessness,” Woods said. “Locking them up, taking away their prospects for employment and making their families’ lives difficult actually makes our communities less safe in the long run.”

The Public Defender’s Office is not aware of a shortage of local prosecutors that preceded Newsom and Bonta’s announcement. In addition, no new state funding was allocated to the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, despite the fact that increased prosecution will lead to more cases being filed and increased caseloads. The Public Defender’s Office budget is approximately $54.1 million per year; the District Attorney’s Office gets $96 million per year.

To read the full press release, click here.
To read a news article on the topic, click here.

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Public Defenders Urge Legislature to Stop Governor from Cutting Successful Resentencing Program

SAN FRANCISCO, OAKLAND — Thousands of people who are eligible for release back to their families and communities will remain locked in California prisons if the Legislature approves Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to cut funding for public defender resentencing units.

Representatives from the offices of San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju and Alameda County Chief Public Defender Brendon Woods and others made comments March 16, 2023, at the California State Senate Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety, the Judiciary, Labor and Transportation session in Sacramento to urge legislators to preserve the funding. The Legislature is currently debating Newsom’s proposed budget.

The governor’s proposal would cut the third year of funding for the  Public Defense Pilot Program, which the Legislature established in 2021 with Senate Bill 129. It set aside approximately $50 million each year for three years beginning in 2021, representing a tiny fraction (0.016%) of the overall state budget. County public defender offices across the state used that money to fund resentencing units, which employ lawyers, social workers and paralegals to review cases, petition local courts for resentencing, and connect clients to resources upon release, as well as represent some clients at parole hearings.

To read the full press release, click here.
To read an op-ed by Chief Public Defender Brendon Woods, click here.

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Governor Newsom Signs AB 1720, Reducing Unnecessary Job Barriers that have Long Held Back Qualified Caregivers with Records

On September 27, 2022, upon signing AB 1720, California Governor Gavin Newsom took an important step to reduce government barriers to caregiving jobs that frequently hold back qualified caregivers with past conviction records. The new law will require the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) both to streamline its process for workers with records to obtain an “exemption” to work in a caregiving facility and to remove unfair “candor trap” questions from its application forms.

To read the full press release, click here.

Governor Newsom signs SB 1106 – The Fresh Start Act – Removing Restitution and Restitution Fines as Barriers to Record Relief

This bill will mitigate the harm of California’s restitution system--which burdens communities already profoundly affected by incarceration and keeps them indebted to the carceral system--and reduce state costs. Further, this bill also helps crime survivors, as many survivors themselves are impacted by restitution while also increasing the effectiveness of the restitution system writ large.

Click here to read the full press release.

Click here to read the full bill.

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