RISE Act Fact Sheet


The RISE Act: Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Enhancements

SB 180 by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) would repeal the three-year sentence enhancement for prior drug convictions, with the exception of convictions involving a minor. The enhancement is applied consecutively — three years for every prior conviction for possession for sale, sale or similar drug offense to any person currently convicted for a similar offense. Since realignment, this law has resulted in hundreds being sentenced to county jails for more than five or even ten years, with even more sentenced to state prison. However, Proposition 57, passed overwhelmingly by voters in November 2016, allows people in prison for nonviolent convictions to be eligible for parole prior to their sentence enhancements. Proposition 57 does not apply to people serving their sentences in county jail. Thus, people in county jail can serve longer sentences than people in prison, even if they have the same convictions.

These enhancements were originally intended to deter drug selling, and reduce the availability of controlled substances. As with other punitive drug war strategies, they are a proven failure — drugs are cheaper, stronger and more widely available than at any time in our state’s history.  These enhancements have the effect of sentencing thousands of people — mainly young men and women of color — to long periods of incarceration in overcrowded state prisons and county jails, destabilizing families and communities.

Furthermore, this failed approach has proven enormously expensive, robbing state and local budgets that should be spent on schools, health and social services, and policies that actually reduce drug use — including drug treatment, after-school programs, and housing.

The RISE Act will repeal costly and ineffective sentencing enhancements, reflecting the Legislature’s and voters’ consensus that we must divest from mass incarceration in order to invest in vitally needed public services.

Why we need the RISE Act  SB 180 (Mitchell)

The RISE Act will free up taxpayer dollars for investment in cost-effective community-based programs instead of costly jail expansion. By amending enhancements for prior drug convictions, SB 180 would reduce jail overcrowding and stop the rush to build and staff costly new jails. Since 2007, California has spent $2.7 billion on county jail expansion – not including the costs borne by the counties for these construction projects, the increased staffing, or the debt service for these high-interest loans. These funds could be better invested in programs and services that meet community needs and improve public safety, including community-based mental health and substance use treatment programs, job programs, and affordable housing.

SB 180 would address extreme sentences. Enhancements result in sentences being far more severe than is just, sensible, or effective. Under current law, a person may face two to four years in jail for possessing drugs for sale under the base sentence. But if the person has two prior convictions for possession for sale, they would face an additional six years in jail – for a total of ten years. As of 2016, there were more than 1,500 people in California jails sentenced to more than five years. The leading cause of these long sentences was non-violent drug sale offenses.

SB 180 would reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.Although rates of drug use and sales are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites. Research also shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for Blacks as for whites charged with the same offense.

SB 180 would help restore balance in the judicial process. Prosecutors use enhancements as leverage to extract guilty pleas, even from the innocent. Prosecutors threaten to use enhancements to significantly increase the punishment defendants would face should they exercise their right to a trial. According to Human Rights Watch, “plea agreements have for all intents and purposes become an offer drug defendants cannot afford to refuse.”

SB 180 will stop the cruel punishment of persons suffering from a substance use disorder.  People who suffer untreated substance use disorders often sell drugs to pay for the drugs that their illness compels them to consume. It is fundamentally unjust, as well as counterproductive, to put a sick person in jail to address behaviors better handled in a medical or treatment setting.

Sentencing enhancements do not prevent or reduce drug sales and have destabilizing effects on families and communities. Research finds that the length of sentences does not provide any deterrent or significant incapacitation effect: longer sentences for drug offenses do not reduce recidivism, nor do they affect drug availability. Most people who commit crimes are either unaware of penalties or do not think they will be caught. Research shows that people incarcerated for selling drugs are quickly replaced by other people.

Governor Brown endorsed a measure for the 2016 ballot that will allow persons to be paroled after they complete their base sentence, regardless of enhancements. However, that measure only applies to persons sentenced to state prison, and will have no effect on jail overcrowding.

However, incarceration can lead to more crime by destabilizing families and communities. Many people who return from incarceration face insurmountable barriers to finding jobs and housing and reintegrating into society. Family members of incarcerated people also struggle with overwhelming debt from court costs, visitation and telephone fees, and diminished family revenue. The longer the sentence, the more severe these problems.

For more information:

Lizzie Buchen, American Civil Liberties Union, lbuchen@acluca.org

Emily Harris, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, emily@ellabakercenter.org

Eunisses Hernandez, Drug Policy Alliance, euhernandez@drugpolicy.org

Glenn Backes, Drug Policy Alliance and Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, glennbackes@mac.com

Jim Lindburg, Friends Committee on Legislation of California,JimL@fclca.org


ACLU of California (co-sponsor)

California Public Defenders Association (co-sponsor)

Californians United for a Responsible Budget (co-sponsor)

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (co-sponsor)

Drug Policy Alliance (co-sponsor)

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (co-sponsor)

Friends Committee on Legislation California (co-sponsor)

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (co-sponsor)

A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing)

A New Way of Life Reentry Project

Abode Services

Access Support Network San Luis Obispo, Monterey and San Benito Counties

ACCESS Women's Health Justice

AFT 2121, City College of San Francisco Faculty Union

Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods

Alliance San Diego

Amity Foundation

American Friends Service Committee

Ann Martin Center

Anti-Recidivism Coalition

Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network

Asian American Criminal Trial Lawyers Association

Asian American Drug Abuse Program, Inc.

Asian Law Alliance

Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Asian Prisoner Support Committee

Bay Area Black Worker Center

Bay Area Resource Generation

Because Black is Still Beautiful

Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice

Bend the Arc, South Bay Chapter

Berkeley Youth Alternatives

Black Women for Wellness

Black Women Organized for Political Action

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency

California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice

California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives, Inc.

California Attorneys for Criminal Justice

California Calls

California Catholic Conference

California Coalition for Women Prisoners

California Immigrant Policy Center

California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance

California Partnership

California Prison Focus

California Prison Moratorium Project

California State Conference on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Californians for Safety and Justice

Center for Living and Learning

Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice

City and County of San Francisco, Reentry Council

City College of San Francisco - Health Education Department

City College of San Francisco - Learning Assistance Department

City of Refuge Church

Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice

Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth

Community Oriented Correctional Health Services

Communities United for Justice and Peace

Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice

Congregation Beth Israel of Judea

Contra Costa County Racial Justice Coalition

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia

Courage Campaign

Critical Resistance Los Angeles

Downtown Women's Center

Eastlake United for Justice

El/La Para TransLatinas

El Proyecto del Barrio, Inc.

Employee Rights Center

Equal Justice Society

Felony Murder Elimination Project

Forward Together

Further the Work

Harm Reduction Services

Healing Dialogue and Action


HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County

Homeboy Industries

Homeboy Recycling

Homeless Health Care Los Angeles

Human Rights of the Incarcerated at UC Berkeley

Hunger Action Los Angeles

Immigrant Youth Coalition

Institute of Popular Education of Southern California

Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace

Jewish Youth for Community Action

Justice Now

Kehilla Community Synagogue

Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Law Foundation of Silicon Valley

League of Women Voters of California

Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund


Multi-faith ACTION Coalition in Contra Costa County

National Association of Social Workers - California Chapter

National Center for Youth Law

National Council of Jewish Women, California

National Employment Law Project

National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Needle Exchange Emergency Distribution

Oakland Rising

Office of Richmond Mayor Tom Butt

Or Shalom Jewish Community

Parent Voices CA

Peace and Freedom Party of California

Peace United Church of Christ

People’s Life Fund

Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California

Positive Women's Network-USA

Prison Law Office

Prison Policy Initiative

Project Inform

Public Defender of Contra Costa County

Reentry Success Center

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Reform CA

Riverside Temple Beth El

Root and Rebound Reentry Advocates

Roots Community Health Center

Rubicon Programs

Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments

San Diego LGBT Community Center

San Diego Organizing Project

San Francisco Human Rights Commission

San Francisco Public Defender's Office

Services Employees International Union

SHIELDS for Families

Sin Barras

Showing Up for Racial Justice Bay Area Chapter

Starting Over, Inc.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Students for a Sensible Drug Policy Chapter at University of California Santa Barbara

Swords to Plowshares

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Tarzana Treatment Centers, Inc.

Temple Beth El, Jewish Community Center of Aptos

The Advocacy Fund

The Gubbio Project

The Kitchen

The Row LA - The Church Without Walls

The Sentencing Project

Think Dignity

Time for Change Foundation

Together to End Solitary Confinement, Santa Cruz

Transgender Gendervariant Intersex Justice Project


United Domestic Workers of America Homecare Providers Union, AFSCME Local 3930/AFL-CIO

United Nations of Consciousness

Urban Habitat

Venice Community Housing

Vida Nueva Community Church

W. Haywood Burns Institute

Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club

Western Center on Law and Poverty

Western Regional Advocacy Project

Women’s Foundation of California

Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!)

Youth Justice Coalition

Young Women’s Freedom Center


+70 Individuals