AB 256: Justice For All!
AB 256: Justice For All!
Every human being has the right to a fair trial no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, or background. According to an article by Stefensmeier & Demuth (2001), African American defendants are 6% more likely to be incarcerated in a non-drug case compared to White defendants. Hispanics are 18% more likely to be incarcerated in a non-drug case. African Americans are more likely to receive 3 months more compared to White defendants, and Hispanics are more likely to receive 7 months more. Judges tend to be more lenient with White defendants (Stefensmeier & Demuth, 2001). Reports indicate that African American men convicted of a felony were 42% more likely to be sentenced to prison than White men convicted of a felony (NASW, 2021). Latino men convicted of a felony were 32.5% more likely to be sent to prison than White men convicted of a felony (NASW, 2021).
The current California Racial Justice Act that was passed in 2020 (AB 2542-Kalra) is not allowed to seek or convict an individual based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin as of January 1, 2021 (NASW, 2021). However, the Assembly Bill (AB) 256 extends the opportunity to individuals who were convicted or charged with a crime to challenge racial, ethnicity, or national origin bias, to individuals before January 1, 2021. It helps those who have been impacted by an unfair conviction. With this bill in place, cases before January 1, 2021, will have an opportunity to file a case due to racial bias (NASW, 2021).
A defendant can file a motion in the trial or file a petition when anyone involved in the trial (judge, attorney case, law enforcement, expert witness, juror) uses any racially discriminatory language and/or exhibits a bias toward the defendant (California Legislative Information, 2021). The defendant can also declare a mistrial. A defendant who was convicted more severely compared to other defendants of other races/ethnicities that committed a similar offense is also able to file a trial or court hearing (California Legislative Information, 2021).
You must support this legislative decision to help avoid unjust trials to proceed due to discrimination. If the bill passes, it will represent a new beginning to our governmental system as it will aim to treat each case based on the intensity of the crime, rather than by the race of the individual.
More information regarding the AB 256: California Racial Justice Act for All: