Victories in working for healing justice

Two new laws bring positive change to California’s criminal legal system, thanks to advocacy by community members and organizations, including AFSC.

By Fatimeh Khan

AFSC’s California Healing Justice Program works to reduce our society’s reliance on prisons and policing—and move us toward transformative community-based alternatives. Today, we are seeing progress toward that goal.

Over the past year, we have successfully advocated for two bills: One would help people in California challenge racist convictions and sentences. The second would inform survivors of their right to restorative justice alternatives—instead of punitive processes—in criminal cases. In October, both bills were signed into law, thanks to advocacy by AFSC, partners, and community members.        

Here's a look at what these two bills will do:  

Stopping racism in the courts 

Since 2019, AFSC and coalition partners have cosponsored the Racial Justice Acts, a series of bills to challenge racism in California’s court system. These long-running efforts led to two new laws that are the first of their kind in the country. The Racial Justice Act of 2020 prohibits the use of race, ethnicity, or national origin in sentencing and convictions. The Racial Justice Act for All of 2022 made the law retroactive, allowing people to challenge past instances of racial bias.  

This year, AFSC was proud to co-sponsor the Racial Justice Act 3.0 (AB 60), which further strengthens these earlier two bills. Thanks to our coalition’s advocacy efforts, the newly passed law will ensure the appeal process provided in the two previous laws can run smoothly. Together, these landmark laws will create a clear path for Black and Brown people in California to challenge racist convictions and sentences.     

Raising awareness about alternatives to punishment 

We all want to live in safe, healthy communities. Putting more people in prisons does not keep us safe. What if we embraced non-carceral, community-based systems of accountability instead?  

This year, a new state law asks people across California to consider these transformative alternatives. Under the law, the state must notify people who have been impacted by a crime of the availability of community-based restorative justice programs available to them. The law ensures they know they have the option to choose a restorative justice path to address harm—instead of a punitive process.  

AFSC is part of a statewide coalition of restorative justice organizations that helped shape and successfully advocate for this law. It is an important step to help move us away from punishment and retribution—and toward transformative alternatives focused on healing and accountability.  

These two new laws are important victories toward a more just, peaceful future for all Californians. With support from the AFSC community, we will continue our work toward a world without prisons.