With the Racial Justice Act, California took a profound step forward in addressing institutionalized and implicit racial bias in our criminal courts by empowering defendants to object to charges, convictions, or punishment if they can show that anyone involved in their case — a judge, attorney, officer, expert witness or juror — demonstrated bias during the process, or if they can show statistical evidence of demographic inequities in charges, convictions, or sentences for the same crime. However, this legislation was prospective; it excluded those who had been harmed prior to January 1, 2021 by the racial bias and discrimination that has long permeated our criminal legal system.
If prohibiting racism in our courts and providing a person a means to remedy racial bias in their case is the right thing to do, it is the right thing to do for everyone. Those with prior, racially biased convictions and sentences deserve equal justice under the law and have waited long enough. Additionally, providing a mechanism for retroactive relief will allow the state to realize significant court and correctional savings.
For these reasons, we support AB 256, the California Racial Justice Act for All, which will make the Racial Justice Act retroactive to ensure that everyone is afforded an opportunity to pursue justice.
Key points on the RJA4All:
- The California Racial Justice Act (RJA), passed in 2020, prohibits the state from seeking or obtaining a criminal conviction, or from imposing a sentence, based upon race, ethnicity or national origin.
- AB 256, the RJA for All, would extend these commonsense and long overdue protections to those who have already been harmed by unfair convictions and sentences, providing these individuals an equal opportunity to pursue justice.
- RJA for All will ensure that all Black and Brown people have a path to challenge racist sentences – no matter how long ago it was.
Get involved: https://action.aclu.org/send-message/ca-asm-rj4all?ms_aff=Cap&initms_aff=Cap&ms_chan=cc&initms_chan=cc
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