After participating in an effort last year to pass a similar bill, Bend the Arc: Bay Area became an official co-sponsor of this year's legislation, which has been driven by the sustained leadership of The Ella Baker Center. Getting SB 1143 to Governor Brown's desk was no easy task, and Bend the Arc is honored to be part of the powerful coalition advocating for the bill. Now we are working to ensure the Governor signs the bill and puts these important reforms into law.
On Monday, August 29, we delivered 175 individual support letters to the Governor, along with numerous organizational endorsements from our partners. This effort caps 18 months of hard work by the Bay Area's Criminal Justice Reform team along with Southern California's Campaign team and the support of Bend the Arc staff. Volunteer leaders held phonebanks to build support, organized lobby visits with legislators, communicated with every member of the Assembly Appropriations Committee (where the bill died last year), wrote opinion pieces published in Jewish publications, and educated the broader Jewish community.
An event planned by the Criminal Justice Reform team in San Francisco on August 25 was powerful and engaging. The event, "Confronting the System: A Night of Action for Juvenile Justice," was led by Alea Gage, current Jeremiah Fellows Jess Bendit and Ezra Leventhal, and featured Frankie Guzman and John Jones, both leaders in the fight for criminal justice reform, both formerly incarcerated. They spoke about the circumstances that led to their incarceration, the traumatic and violent experiences that accompany incarceration, and their paths from being in the system to being leaders moving systemic change. John is on staff with Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice and active in criminal justice reform organizing around the state. Frankie is a staff attorney at the National Center for Youth Law.
Bend the Arc's work on criminal justice reform in California first kicked into high gear back in 2014 when local leaders chose this area of work through a grassroots campaign selection process. Leaders felt compelled to address the crisis of mass incarceration, including in particular its connection to racial justice. SB 1143 is one element of a multi-pronged strategy to address mass incarceration, as the need to end the "war on drugs" gains bipartisan support, and sustained organizing continues to bear fruit. We wait in anticipation as SB 1143 sits on the desk of Governor Brown.