Criminal Justice Reform Position

This page is for anyone interested in Criminal Justice.

Here you'll find extensive information created and overseen by our volunteers. We also have a much shorter official LWVC.org Criminal Justice page, overseen by LWVC staff.

We have two big areas of activity right now:

  1. Collaborating with Leagues across the United States. Begining with a Resolution and Caucus at LWVUS Convention in June 2020, we are now part of a nation-wide movement. Visit our National Engagement Page for more information.
  2. Criminal Justice Education and Advocacy across California. We are creating resources for local Leagues, individual League members, press, partners or coalitions, and Californians to reform the criminal justice system through education and advocacy. If this suits you, please continue on this page.

The Issue

The role of the criminal justice system is to prevent crime and promote public safety. Current research indicates successful systems focus on pre-trial diversion, rehabilitation and preventing recidivism. Some communities experience excessive force and surveillance by the police. People waste away in prisons serving extreme sentences. A growing national bipartisan consensus exists that the current criminal justice system needs reform to ensure its constitutionality and cost effectiveness, community participation is essential.

The most effective criminal justice reforms consider the safety and well being of both peace officers and the communities they serve, especially people most impacted. It’s time to re-think the humanity of those who do harm, as well as understand the support — e.g. adequate training, clear performance standards, mental health services — required by law enforcement.

It is our committee's goal to encourage everyone to reform the criminal justice system through education and advocacy.

What You Can Do

LWV California and Local Leagues are hosting events, partnering with local groups and coalitions, holding workshops and forums, speaking out at government meetings, taking action on state bills and local legislation, and more. There are many ways for you to get involved locally, regionally, or statewide.

We have an inclusive, open approach to organizing -- calling people into this work rather than creating barriers to participation -- so if you are new to these issues we want to be sure you begin by educating yourself. Learn from people who are most impacted by the criminal justice system. Be a good community member, by finding out who is already active in your circles and what they’re prioritizing and why. Support their work.

Start here:

  1. Suggested Reading on Criminal Justice

  2. Definition of Criminal Justice Terms

  3. Terms / Statements to Avoid

Three things every Californian can do right now:

  1. Join the movement to end the death penalty at https://www.safecalifornia.org/ -- LWVC is active in this coalition.
  2. AB 392 went into effect in January 2020. Your local law enforcement needs to be in compliance with this new higher use of force standard. Get involved via the ACLU-led coalition we participate in: https://www.aclusocal.org/en/acttosavelives.
  3. Become a member of the League!

Three things League members can do right now:

  1. Join our Criminal Justice GoogleGroup.
  2. Your local League may already be active in Criminal Justice. We try to keep this page (link coming soon) updated with what they’re doing but you should get the latest information directly from them.
  3. We have a fantastic toolkit we hope every California League member will use. The Criminal Justice Toolkit is being put online here: https://my.lwv.org/california/criminal-justice-local-league-toolkit

Four propositions we all should vote "YES!" on this November:

Thanks to our efforts over the last year and a half, Californians will vote on important measures in November:

  • Schools & Communities First, Proposition 15 – Leaguers across the state stepped up to gather a record-breaking amount of signatures. We are closer than ever to restoring $12 BILLION for schools and local services.
  • Opportunity for All, Proposition 16 (ACA 5) – The League signed the ballot arguments to reestablish equal opportunity programs in California and help level the playing field in public higher education, employment, and contracting.

  •  Free the Vote Act, Proposition 17 (ACA 6) – The League co-sponsored and signed the ballot arguments to restore voting rights to more than 50,000 Californians on parole, a disproportionate number of whom are Black or Brown.

  • End Money Bail, Proposition 25 – Eradicates the cash bail system, which disproportionately impacts Black and Brown Californians and often causes people who have not been convicted of any crime to spend long periods in county jail and lose jobs, housing, and even their children.

Who Is Leading This and Why?

Following our statewide convention in 2017, a LWV California Criminal Justice Task Force was created to review criminal justice positions from state and local Leagues across the country. Based on that research, they drafted this Criminal Justice position so that local Leagues can educate and advocate. At the 2019 LWV California Convention the position was adopted and Criminal Justice Reform was also made a key issue statewide.

The original task force disbanded after Convention, but those interested in this issue have been appointed to a California Criminal Justice Committee to work on this priority. We have bi-weekly calls and there are usually at least a dozen participants from all over the state. Any League member is welcome to participate in our calls, even if they’re not from California. We generally operate by consensus, are volunteers at the state and local levels (with occasional exciting collaboration with state and local staff), and adhere to League policies, procedures, mission, vision and values

Email us at criminaljustice <at> lwvc.org.

Public or Members Only?: 
Public - accessible to everyone