Bill to Limit the Length of Adult Probation Heads to Governor Newsom's Desk

Monday, August 24, 2020

(Sacramento) – Today the California State Senate passed a bill to limit adult probation to a maximum of one year for misdemeanor offenses and two years for felony offenses. The bill passed out of the Senate with an 26-12 vote. 

Existing law authorizes courts to enforce misdemeanor probation terms for a maximum of three years. Felony probation may be enforced for as long as the maximum possible prison sentence for the offense.

“Being on probation can feel like living life in quicksand. Probation departments micromanage people and apply haphazard rules designed to inevitably catch people committing crimes—victimless technical violations that people not on probation wouldn’t think twice about.” said Assemblymember Kamlager (D-Los Angeles). “Research shows that probation services, such as mental healthcare and addiction treatment, are most effective during the first 18 months of supervision. Research also indicates that providing increased supervision and services earlier reduces an individual’s likelihood to recidivate. It’s time our probation system starts reflecting that data.”

Assembly Bill 1950 seeks to reform California’s probation system. Limiting the length of probation terms will limit unnecessary interaction between law enforcement and Californians, reduce the spread of COVID-19, cut spending and make our communities safer.

Nearly one-quarter of California’s prison population is behind bars for violating the terms of their probation or parole, costing the state $2 billion annually. Part of that expense is $235 million to incarcerate people for victimless, technical violations, such as breaking curfew or missing an appointment with a supervision officer.

This system disproportionally hurts Black people, who make up eight percent of the state’s general population but 23 percent of people on probation. 

People like Ulysses Rodriguez, who had his probation extended because he could not complete his final 12 hours of community service, helping to clean a beach, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Or people like Cruz Membrano, an Army veteran, who violated probation for not keeping his probation officer advised of his permanent address after losing temporary housing and resorting to living on the streets.

Additionally, probation officers are woefully overburdened in California, with many of them juggling overwhelming numbers of cases, short-changing people on probation and generating adverse impacts on community safety. Reducing the burden on probation officers will enable them to identify specific needs in each case and elicit more meaningful and measurable progress toward rehabilitation.

“Recent protests and social unrest are pushing our country toward progress,” said Kamlager. “I challenge us to envision a new normal where justice is restorative and rehabilitative – rooted in research, facts and figures, and a consciousness that the way we have been doing things is insufficient. A new normal where supervision is not about how long someone’s term is, but rather how meaningful that term is.”

AB 1950 would reduce recidivism, put people on a springboard to success, and encourage and expand evidence-based anti-recidivism programs. 

To schedule an interview with Assemblymember Kamlager, contact Alina Evans at (831) 331-8468.

Assembly District 54 consists of Baldwin Hills, Cheviot Hills, the Crenshaw District, Century City, Culver City, Ladera Heights, Mar Vista, Palms, Rancho Park, Westwood and parts of South Los Angeles and Inglewood.