"I don’t care how many people are in our jails," she said. "If someone has committed a crime, especially a crime as violent as rape, they should be prosecuted and they should be put in jail if they are found guilty."
Leyva's bill is one of several this year inspired by a high-profile criminal case. But the bill's one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t sit well with the California ACLU’s Natasha Minsker. Her organization opposes Levya’s measure. Minsker says high-profile cases put pressure on lawmakers to act. She points to California’s three-strikes law.
“The mandatory minimum prison sentence of three strikes was enacted in response to the Polly Klaas murder," she said. "A horrific case that captured headlines and really upset people for good reason and then led to bad policy.”
In 2012 voters approved a ballot measure that toned down the three-strikes law.
The ACLU also opposes Assembly Bill 2888 to require mandatory prison time for rape and other sexual assaults. The measure was inspired by the case of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who was sentenced to just six months in jail and three years probation after being convicted on three felony sexual assault charges. The sentence infuriated people throughout the country and even led to a recall effort against the judge who sentenced Turner. The case also inspired Assembly Bill 701. It would expand the state’s definition of rape.
Emily Austin is with the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which is neutral on both SB 813 and AB 2888. Austin says judges and prosecutors need different choices for punishment, like rehabilitation, with a focus on eradicating sexual violence.
“We’re in a moment where there’s a tension between what accountability looks like," Austin said. "We’re trying to develop a more robust and comprehensive idea of accountability that may not be just locking someone away.”