Sacramento’s mayor, along with criminal justice reform advocates and some Democratic state lawmakers, called for nearly $3 billion in funding for increased behavioral health treatment, prison reentry resources, and aid to victims of crime. The proposal comes three days after a mass shooting left six dead and a dozen others injured.
The shooting has already prompted more calls for tighter gun laws in California and nationally. Others have called for the state to reverse course on efforts to reduce criminal sentencing following the deadly incident and the broader increase in violent and property crimes during 2021.
Steinberg said his calls for more investment in crime prevention and victim support are unrelated to a suspect in the shooting who was recently released from prison.
The mayor said he has “some very serious questions about why the alleged perpetrators — and it is an allegation — were out on the streets.”
According to the Sacramento Bee, one of the suspects, 27-year-old Smiley Martin, was released in February — four years into a 10-year sentence. The office of Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert argued Martin posed a danger to society and asked the Board of Parole Hearings that he remain in jail.
Police have arrested two people, including Smiley Martin and his brother, Dandrae Martin, in connection with the shooting, but neither have been charged with homicide. Sacramento Police said Wednesday they believe there were at least five shooters and that the incident may have been “gang-related.”
Rather than returning to so-called “tough-on-crime” policies, Steinberg and others called for more investment in victims and people released from prison with limited resources or housing.
The mayor also called for a legal right to housing and mental health treatment, saying without it, “we are still going to have broken systems. I, for one, am tired of it. I was tired of it long before the trauma in my community.”
Groups including Californians for Safety and Justice, ACLU California Action and Smart Justice California sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins (D–San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D–Lakewood) asking for the nearly $3 billion in funding for victims and those leaving prison to stay on their feet.
“These investments in mental health, reentry, and victim services would immediately help reduce the state’s shifting violence rates as well as alleviate the acute crises many victims of crime are facing across the state,” the letter reads.
Specifically, the letter sent to Newsom and legislative leaders calls for:
- $210 million for victim services, including trauma recovery services, legal services and cash assistance.
- $100 million annually to fund victim compensation.
- $200 million to fund substance abuse treatment for people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.
- $100 million for block grants for cities and counties partner with community-based organizations to “develop public health solutions for people who are frequently arrested for low-level offenses and cycling through jail and hospital systems.”
- $80 million for community-based organizations through the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program.
- $200 million for reentry housing, through Assembly Billl 1816.
- $200 million to increase capacity for community-based reentry programs
- $50 million for workforce development and direct cash assistance.
- Support for Newsom’s proposal to spend $1.5 billion in behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, as well as other proposals by the governor, including:
- Roughly $445 million in ongoing funding for substance abuse treatment, both inside and outside prisons.
- Nearly $8 million to increase non-law enforcement response for mental health crises.
- $86 million from opioid settlement funds for public awareness campaigns.
The letter also asks lawmakers to continue efforts to reduce incarceration and shorten prison sentences for some convicts.
Last fall, Newsom signed bills to limit gang enhancements and end mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, among others.
Proposition 47 — which does not affect sentencing for violent crime — has also been the subject of debate in recent months as retail theft and other property crimes have made headlines. The ballot measure was approved in 2014 and reduced some property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
Several Democratic lawmakers made clear they will not back down from broader efforts to reduce criminal sentencing, despite increasing public pressure.
According to a February Berkeley IGS poll, a majority of voters said they support changes to Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for certain theft and nonviolent drug crimes. The same poll showed 78% of voters said they believe crime has increased in California over the past year.
“The cheap, easy political thing to do is to say, ‘lock them up and throw away the key,’” said Assembly member Miguel Santiago (D–Los Angeles). “But that hasn't worked. In fact, we're here today because decades of tough on crime policies created the situation that we're in today, where we've mass incarcerated people of color in working class communities.”
Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (R–Yuba City) said in an interview Wednesday that he is open to discuss rehabilitation efforts but also believes criminal sentencing reforms should be revisited.
“Certainly, as Republicans, we do believe in rehabilitation,” Gallagher said. “But we have to have accountability. And that’s what the real issue is here.”
He also called for more efforts to recover guns held illegally and an end to the emergency rules allowing for early release of inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We should absolutely stop those emergency regulations from granting these folks early release on credits — especially when all the people looking at these parolees are saying they’re not ready to be released,” Gallagher said.
The $3 billion ask from Steinberg and criminal justice reform groups is a budgetary request. Newsom already proposed spending roughly $1.5 billion for more behavioral health treatment slots as part of his January budget proposal.
The governor will present an updated spending proposal in May. The Legislature must pass a final budget by June 15.
Correction: A previous version of this story said a suspect in the Sacramento shooting was granted early release from prison. He completed his sentence in February with credits for good behavior and completing rehabilitative or educational programs.
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