Legislative Update

Several bills addressing various issues of interest to prisoners were sent to Gov. Davis in October 2001. A few were signed; most were vetoed. Those signed were: SB 83 (Burton) will allow an indigent prisoner to request a court-appointed attorney for a post conviction DNA investigation; SB 799 (Karnette) will allow battered women/survivors of domestic violence convicted before 1992, to file a writ of habeas so they can get back to court to present evidence of the abuse they suffered (Evidence Code 1107 took effect in January 1992, allowing evidence of abuse to be brought in at trial). This bill is an important victory for all those women who have been fighting for the rights of battered women in prison. Women prisoners who believe they are impacted by this bill should contact the California Coalition for Battered Women in Prison at 100 McAllister Street, San Francisco, Ca. 94102 for more information about filing habeas petitions. Both of these bills will become law effective January 2002.
The majority of prisoner-related bills were vetoed, those include:

  • AB 675: would have amended Penal Code 1170(e) [compassionate release] by providing that family members would be notified when a prisoner was eligible for compassionate release and that a terminally ill prisoner could pursue a compassionate release if s/he had a prognosis of less than one year to live (rather than the present six months). Vetoed due to budgetary concerns and because, this measure could result in the release of violent offenders resulting in risk to public. (Gov. Davis press release of 10/15/01).
  • AB 1149: would have exempted whistleblower employees at a prison from sanctions against removing personal CDC employee information from the prison. Davis vetoed this bill because the whistleblower exception was too broad and would encourage the unauthorized removal of sensitive confidential documents; a whistleblower should not be encouraged to violate administrative rules or statutes in reporting improper governmental activities. (10/15/01 press release)
  • SB 396: would have required the CDC to provide a report to the Legislature on the total revenues and costs of the $5 co-pay and would have established new guidelines for MTAs. Vetoed because it would result in General Fund costs not already budgeted in the 2001 Budget Act.
  • SB 700: would have provided that women life term prisoners who do not have a parole date could participate in overnight family visits with their minor children. Vetoed because it presents serious security concerns. In addition, Davis was concerned that costly litigation would be brought by male prisoners. However, even though Davis raised the issue of gender-specific legislation and the possibility of lawsuits by men, the majority of his press release focused on security concerns regarding these unsupervised, overnight visits. As he wrote: I am cognizant of and concerned with the importance of maintaining family ties within the community for individuals incarcerated within our correctional system. However, this measure could undermine the security of the institution. (10/15/01 press release)