Thursday, August 13, 2020

California Senate Bill 1064 -Uncorroborated Information

On August 3 2020, the California Assembly Public Safety Committee will hear SB 1064, which is an important corrective that aims to protect the due process rights of incarcerated people in the collection and use of information from in-custody confidential informants.

What is SB 1064?

“SB 1064 protects basic due process rights in the collection and use of information from in-custody confidential informants by California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Uncorroborated information entered into confidential prison files can compromise future proceedings impacting an incarcerated individual such as parole hearings and other internal corrections Department decisions.”

See: https://sd09.senate.ca.gov/news/20200520-sen-skinner%E2%80%99s-parole-reform-bill-sb-1064-ok%E2%80%99d-senate-public-safety-committee

Who Does SB 1064 Affect?

SB 1064, if passed, will provide long-overdue relief to individuals currently incarcerated in facilities overseen by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
The current use of in-custody confidential informants has posed many frustrations for prisoners, especially those currently incarcerated people who are focusing on rehabilitation and re-entry.

What are the Issues That SB 1064 Addresses ?

The CDCR frequently collects information from confidential in-custody informants, which can be uncorroborated and lack physical evidence. This information goes into an inmate’s “confidential file,” and then be used by the CDCR as justification for actions such as:

  • Disciplinary hearings, including decisions to throw a person into SHU (solitary confinement).
  • Gang association validation
  • Parole procedures

Troublingly, the CDCR can deny an accused prisoner any request to see their “confidential file.” This makes it impossible for that individual to obtain information such as what they are being accused of, who is accusing them, making it basically impossible to prepare reasonable legal defense.

How will SB 1064 Help?

SB 1064 will afford rights to prisoners accused by in-custody confidential informants similar to the rights afforded to criminal defendants.

  • CDCR and the Board of Parole Hearings will not be allowed to make decisions solely based on information that is uncorroborated and gained from in-custody confidential informants.
  • The information from in-custody confidential informants can only be used if there is substantiated evidence that supports the allegation.
  • If the CDCR and/or Board of Parole Hearings is meeting regarding an incarcerated person , the accused will receive a summary of the information provided by the in-custody confidential informant that was used.

Imagine – you are an adult who has been incarcerated for many years for crimes you committed in your late teens, and your parole board hearing is next week. You are holding on to the hope of re-entry into society, so you have spent your years in custody proactively taking advantage of any chance for rehabilitation. You got your GED and now are taking college courses by mail. You attend several weekly drug and anger treatment programs to prepare yourself for the triggers of the outside world. You have collected
letters of support from your community and loved ones to show the parole board that you have a support network that won’t let you fail. You have done everything possible to heal the circumstances which brought you to prison, and you’re ready to come back to society and enjoy the rest of your life.

And then you are told you are no longer eligible for parole. Or you’re thrown into solitary confinement and nobody comes to get you for your parole hearing. You ask why and you are told it is confidential-you have no right to know what the allegations were or who made them. All that work you have done on yourself suddenly feels as if it were for nothing – you won’t
be going home, your life is not going to improve.

As it stands, there is no protection to keep these kinds of scenarios from occurring. And it is deeply affecting the mental health and well being of incarcerated people throughout California.
SB 1064 is indeed a small act that corrects procedural errors, restores due process rights for incarcerated people, and will undoubtedly have a lasting, positive impact on the rehabilitation and mental wellness of incarcerated people in California.

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Anne Beles - State Certified Criminal Law Specialist
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