What Is AB 256?
Senate Bill 256 is a bill introduced by State Assemblymember Ash Kalra of the 27th Assembly District. The bill builds upon a prior law, the California Racial Justice Act, which precludes the government from making any prosecutorial or sentencing decisions based on the race, ethnicity or national origin of the accused. While the Racial Justice Act, which was also presented by Assemblymember Kalra, took significant steps to remedy an unfair criminal justice system, it only applied to convictions on or after January 1, 2021. Thus, those who were serving sentences based on decades-old convictions were beyond the scope of the Act, meaning they were left without a remedy.
Assembly Bill 256 changes this by extending the protections of the Racial Justice Act to those who were convicted of a crime before January 1, 2021. Thus, under the newly passed AB 256, anyone, regardless of when they were convicted, can pursue relief under the California Racial Justice Act. Not only that, but the bill would also require any judge whose conduct was challenged in an inmate’s petition to recuse themselves. Practically speaking, this means that many inmates will be able to present their petition to a judge other than the one who convicted or sentenced them.