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Governor Signs Bill Ending Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Non-Violent Drug Offenses

Gavin Newsom
Lynn Friedman
Flickr / Creative Commons
The San Francisco Hall of Justice

California courts will soon have significantly more discretion in sentencing. On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 73, officially ending mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

This was the fourth legislative attempt in three years to end California’s mandatory minimum policy. SB 73 will allow courts to suspend sentences for convicted individuals and grant probation through a state-mandated local program. These alternative sentencing options had previously been prohibited for various controlled substances under California state law.

Mandatory minimum sentences affect tens of thousands of residents annually, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. KTLA reports that mandatory sentences range from two to more than seven years.

State Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco authored the legislation. He said it’s crucial to ending the state’s "system of mass incarceration," which he says disproportionately harms communities of color.

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen opposed the bill. It claims that penalties like mandatory minimums are necessary to deter the sale and use of drugs.

The law goes into effect January 1st.

I am a researcher and writer from Oakland, CA. I cut my teeth in radio at my college station and since graduating, I’ve worked as a paralegal, arts administrator, maritime historian, and most recently, a fellow at WorldAffairs, a global politics radio show and podcast co-produced with KQED. In my work, I am interested in the intersections of race, climate, and labor rights as well as place-based narratives of marginalization and the relationship between local history, public space, and identity formation, especially among queer and BIPOC communities. I am also passionate about drawing on the performing arts—particularly theater and music—to develop interview/storytelling practices grounded in mutual repair and community-building.
Ben joined KALW in 2004. As Executive News Editor and then News Director, he helped the news department win numerous regional and national awards for long- and short-form journalism. He also helped teach hundreds of audio producers, many of whom work with him at KALW, today.