Issue(s): Ending Mass Incarceration
Responding to calls from advocates, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley changes internal immigration policy that put immigrant communities at risk of double punishment
Policy encouraged prosecutors to seek longer jail or probation time in exchange for an immigration neutral plea deal
OAKLAND, CA – Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has agreed to immediately suspend her office’s current immigration policy that allowed prosecutors to seek longer jail or probation time in exchange for an immigration neutral plea deal. DA O’Malley agreed to do so
in a meeting with representatives from more than half a dozen social justice and civil rights organizations on Friday, March 27.
“As the gatekeepers to the criminal legal system, prosecutors have tremendous influence over who enters, who leaves, and how long they stay,” said E.J. Pavia, lead organizer at Urban Peace Movement. “During this COVID-19 crisis, it’s critical that District Attorneys do everything in their power to stop the spread of this virus and protect people inside, staff and our communities.”
In the criminal legal system, immigrant communities suffer the double punishment of immigration detention and deportation following the completion of a jail sentence. In the midst of the COVID-19 public health crisis, advocates met with DA O’Malley to push for the release of people in jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers as a public health response to avoid the disastrous consequences of massive, uncontained spread to people who are incarcerated. Advocates pointed out the unjustness of her policy, which required immigrants to serve additional time in jails in prisons.
The policy, which was last updated on July 26, 2017 stated (emphasis added):
“If the consideration of collateral consequences is deemed appropriate and some mitigating modification of an offered plea agreement is suggested, it is also appropriate to require some form of concession by the defendant (to make the resolution roughly equivalent to an offer made to a U.S citizen). Examples would include more custody time or a longer period of probation. Given the complexity and evolving nature of immigration law, it is difficult for any individual prosecutor to determine the truth of defense assertions regarding potential collateral consequences. It can be assumed, however, that if a defendant is willing to endure a more onerous sentence in return for a modification of the offered plea agreement, then the feared consequences are authentic.”
“Even in the midst of these difficult times, this change reflects what is possible when organizers come together with a shared commitment to public health and safety in our communities,” said Sandy Valenciano, campaign strategist with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
Organizations working on this issue are: Urban Peace Movement, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Justice Reinvestment Coalition Alameda County, Ella Baker Center, Causa Justa Just Cause, ACLU of Northern California, East Bay Community Law Center, Restore Oakland, Human Impact Partners and Faith in Action – East Bay.