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Removing Sentencing Enhancements — our testimony

Quaker Voice testimony in favor of HB 1268

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important measure.

1268 is bill about racial equity. For too long, people of color have disproportionately received sentences of great length. During public testimony in the House in 2021, Department of Corrections staff testified that 29% of the individuals serving time with enhancements for weapons were Black. This compares with 4.2% of our state’s population that is Black. This bill removes the mandatory stacking of sentence enhancements that lead to this inequity.

Consider the case that we heard about last year during testimony before the Senate Law & Justice Committee.  An individual was found to possess illegal drugs and two weapons.  The weapons were not used in any way; he only had them in his possession in another part of his car in which he was arrested.  He received a sentence of 6 years for the drug possession, but two enhancements of ten years each, one for each gun, resulting in a 26-year sentence.  This case illustrates the absurdity of mandatory consecutive enhancement sentencing.

Judges may still add enhancements if the case warrants extra sentencing length. This judicial discretion was supported unanimously by the Criminal Sentencing Task Force as were the underlying concepts of the bill.

While we support 1268, we must ask, what about those who are currently being punished by what, by the very fact this bill is needed, we decry as an unfair system?  You have the ability to right this wrong.  We urge you to add retroactivity into 1268 so that people now in prison, a disproportionate number of whom are black, may receive the same treatment as those in future cases and benefit from the fairer system this bill creates.

It’s now time to remove vestiges of the get-tough-on-crime and war-on-drugs days of the 1980s and 1268 addresses that. We urge your support to pass the bill out of your committee.

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