SURJ Bay Area’s Policy Committee supports incredible partner organizations – Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) / All of Us or None, Essie Justice Group, Initiate Justice, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employer’s Network, and the Drop LWOP Coalition – in their legislative advocacy campaigns, aimed at ending the prison industrial complex and building a world free of cages and with equitable working and living conditions for all.
In 2023, we advocated for 18 bills by submitting letters of support, participating in Lobby Days, engaging our membership in calling and social media actions, and more. Looking back on the year, we want to share updates on the bills that have been signed into law and an overview of how we showed up in 2023.
Bills Signed Into Law
AB 60 (Bryan) Restorative Justice
This bill will require that victims / survivors of harm receive notice of the availability of community-based Restorative Justice programs and processes in their community, county, county jails, juvenile detention facilities, and prisons. This bill was co-sponsored by Initiate Justice.
AB 1118 (Kalra) The California Racial Justice Act Claims
This bill makes technical changes to the procedures for claims under the Racial Justice Act, key legislation that our partners worked tirelessly on in recent years. This bill was co-sponsored by Californians United for a Responsible Budget, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and Initiate Justice.
AB 1226 (Haney) Family Proximity for Incarcerated Parents
This bill requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to assign an incarcerated parent to serve their term in the institution closest to their minor child’s home, if appropriate and with the parent’s consent. Currently, about 195,000 children have incarcerated parents in California state prisons. Under current CDCR practices, the incarcerated parent’s family location is taken into consideration, but there was previously no law that specifically required CDCR to place a parent close to their minor child, and many families ended up hundreds of miles apart from each other. The long distances place a burden on families who do not have the financial means or the time to travel across the state for family visits and causes increased adverse effects on children and parents due to the trauma of separation. Proximity benefits children and their incarcerated parents and leads to more positive outcomes for both. This bill was co-sponsored by Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.
SB 474 (Becker) The BASICs (Basic Affordable Supplies for Incarcerated Californians) Act
The BASICs Act helps incarcerated people and their families by capping price markups on items purchased in California’s prison canteen stores at 35% above vendor cost until 2028 after which the prices will be fixed at a rate to ensure the canteens are self-sustaining. The price of canteen goods is not currently regulated under California law, leading to significant markups on products. Most incarcerated people make between $0.08 and $0.37 an hour, but an 8 oz package of coffee grounds, for example, can cost up to $9 in a canteen. This represents 16%-75% of an incarcerated person’s monthly income. SB 474 will help regulate prices to ease the financial burden on incarcerated people and their families. This bill was co-sponsored by the Ella Baker Center and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.
How We Showed Up
Legislative Action List
We sent seven messages to the Legislative Action List, which went to 1,000+ people each time, sharing opportunities to call their representatives, post on social media, submit letters of support, and more.
SURJ Bay Area’s biweekly Action Hour provides a space for people to take virtual actions for racial justice, including calling on elected officials to support legislation. Fourteen Action Hours this year focused on advocating for priority bills. Participants called and emailed their elected officials, amplified support for bills on social media, and reached out to others to encourage them to also take action. In total, Action Hour participants contacted their representatives 184 times in support of priority bills.
Quest for Democracy Day
SURJ Bay Area members showed up and supported LSPC’s Annual Lobby Day, Quest for Democracy Day, in Sacramento, joining our partner organizations to rally outside the capitol and speak to elected representatives about the importance of our partner’s priority bills.
Letters of Support
We submitted Letters of Support for all priority bills and had our organizational name read aloud in support at committee hearings throughout the year.
What About the Other Bills?
You may have noticed that the number of bills that were signed into law this year is much smaller than the number we were advocating for. While it’s true that some very important bills were vetoed and/or died in the legislature last year, several others have become 2-year bills and will be ones we continue to advocate for in 2024!
We’re going to need all the help we can get to pass these bills in 2024. If you want to help us get important partner-led bills across the finish line in 2024, please join our Legislative Action List here and/or join our regular Action Hours here!
Please also consider donating to our annual end-of-year fundraising campaign to support our amazing Policy partner organizations! 70% of funds raised will be equally split between SURJ Bay Area’s BIPOC partner organizations with the other 30% supporting the work of SURJ National and our chapter to keep organizing white folx across the country and showing up in solidarity and accountability with our partners. You can make your donation here.
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