Press Release

Hertzberg Legislation Protects the Legal Rights of Prisoners and Their Families

SB 614 clarifies the law to ensure prisoners serving a year or more in jail receive the same access to legal representation as those in prison

August 18, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, today announced legislation to correct an oversight of law created by the state’s 2011 public safety realignment that denies county jail inmates the same rights to legal representation they would receive if they were in state prison.

The discrepancy in law came to light in a recent ruling in The People v. Prescott case. Under state law, defendants serving more than a year in state prison are presumed to be unable to pay for legal defense and therefore granted access to free legal representation. A recently issued court decision, however, said that state statute does not apply to those sentenced to county jail, even if the sentence is more than year.

“All people are entitled to legal representation in this country, no matter who they are or what their income level. It is one of the foundations of our legal system,” Hertzberg said. “SB 614 corrects an oversight in the law to ensure that the families of defendants aren’t penalized by the prisoner’s placement in jail rather than prison.”

In 2011, California enacted a sweeping realignment of its public safety system designed to lower the state prison population by simply changing where lower-level offenders serve time – from state prisons to county jails.

Hertzberg today amended SB 614, which is in the Assembly, with the realignment fix. SB 614 is sponsored by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

“This is of the utmost importance to low-income families who are saddled with untenable financial burdens when a family member is sentenced to jail with no foreseeable income,” said Jennifer Kim, the Director of Programs for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “The system needs to stop nickel and diming families who are already stretched to their limits."


Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at

Communications Director
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-4018

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