California's Racial Justice Acts

California's Racial Justice Act and Racial Justice Act For All ,and the subsequent Racial Justice Act 3.0, are a set of state laws passed in the early 2020s to offer relief from racial bias in the courts.

Beginning with the Racial Justice Act in 2020, AFSC and fellow cosponsors persevered across long years of legislative ups and downs to enact a set of new state laws to challenge racism in the courts. AFSC and the Racial Justice Act coalition now seek to enact a fourth law in 2024.

AFSC's California Healing Justice Program worked in coalition through four long years of legislative ups and downs to win the first two new state laws, allowing individuals to challenge racial bias in criminal charges, convictions, and sentences.

In 2020, we passed the Racial Justice Act to address racial discrimination in the courts.  This law allowed individuals to challenge racial bias in criminal charges, convictions, and sentences.  Unfortunately a late-introduced amendment meant the new law would only protect those whose sentences and convictions were in the future. What about all those who were given longer sentences, or given convictions, because of past discrimination in the courtroom?

Our coalition continued its work, and in 2022 we passed the Racial Justice Act For All.  Now anyone who experiences racial bias in the courts, whether in the past or the future, may petition for relief. 

In 2023, the coalition sponsored a new state legislative bill, AB 1118, "The Racial Justice Act 3.0", which provided implementation details to ensure the appeal process provided by the previous two Racial Justice laws could run smoothly.

The first two Racial Justice Acts ensured Black & Brown people in California have a path to challenge racist convictions and sentences, whether those occur in the future or in the past, and the third smoothed implementation of the two laws. In the 2024 legislative session, the coalition introduced a fourth bill, AB 2065. While the three current Racial Justice laws together provide a legal path to challenge racial bias in the courts, there is no requirement for state or county entities to make public any data around past court sentences and convictions, or the race of defendants. If AB 2065 is passed, then it becomes possible to obtain and analyze data for similar convictions, and show sentencing disparity along racial lines. AB 2065 is an important piece of implementing the Racial Justice Acts, and will make it easier for those who have experienced racism in the courts to prove it. 

Legislative work like this requires a coalition of many organizations to make possible. AFSC has been a co-sponsor of the Racial Justice Act and the following bills since 2019. 

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