The concept of a sentencing commission as a mechanism for governance of a jurisdiction’s criminal justice system has achieved great prominence in recent years and been the subject of much important commentary. In light of California’s recent passage of A.B. 109, legislation that drastically overhauls the state’s sentencing and correctional systems, now is an ideal time to evaluate California’s adoption and implementation of the commission model.
Readers who are familiar with California criminal justice will pause quizzically at that last sentence, observing that the California Legislature has steadfastly refused to create a sentencing commission. But my argument here is that there is now, in effect, a California sentencing commission even if not by explicit law. Indeed, I will argue that collectively the branches of our state government have, whether intentionally or not, created a number of sentencing commissions. [...]