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Should California limit sentencing enhancements?




A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officers log condemned inmates who are leaving the exercise yard at San Quentin State Prison's death row on August 15, 2016 in San Quentin, California.
A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officers log condemned inmates who are leaving the exercise yard at San Quentin State Prison's death row on August 15, 2016 in San Quentin, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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A new bill moving through the California legislature seeks to simplify the state’s penal code by limiting felony conviction sentences to double the base term, with certain exceptions.

Currently, the penal code provides three varying terms for each offence, and time served for multiple charges can be stacked or served concurrently, depending on the situation. And then various enhancements also add time to a sentence, sometimes even more than the sentence itself, which is what SB 1279 aims to curb.

According the proponents of the bill, this will prevent unreasonably long confinements due to stacked enhancements. They say there’s no proof that longer sentences act as deterrents and that they especially impact communities of color.

But critics, which have included the California State Sheriffs’ Association and California District Attorneys Association are concerned that this will take sentencing power away from the hands of the judge, and will lead to lighter sentences for people who don’t deserve it.

We debate the bill.

Guests: 

Don Specter, executive director of the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office, a non-profit public interest law firm that provides legal services to prisoners

Todd Riebe, district attorney at Amador County; he is the past president of the California District Attorneys, which is opposed to the bill



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