Crime Story has received permission to re-print Michael Romano‘s newsletters from Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project whose mission is to reverse the most unjust criminal sentences. Romano and his colleague Susan Champion were interviewed by Amanda Knox for Crime Story and you can find the podcast and the transcript of that interview here. You can find a story about Romano’s participation in a U.S. Congressional field hearing on criminal justice reform here.


We are extremely happy that late last week Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law six criminal law reforms developed and recommended by the Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code and Three Strikes Project!

The new laws will:

  • Shorten sentences for over 10,000 people currently incarcerated (SB 483),
  • Reduce the use of unnecessary sentence enhancements (SB 81),
  • End mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes (SB 73),
  • Reduce racial bias in gang prosecutions (AB 333),
  • Expand use of ‘second chance’ sentencing (AB 1540), and
  • Allow people committed to state hospitals with severe mental illness to reduce their commitments for participation in treatment and positive rehabilitative programming (SB 317).

As one Sacramento commentator observed: “In its short existence, the state Committee on Revision of the Penal Code is proving itself to be one of the most important, productive and successful non-legislative committees in California history.”

We are especially grateful to Governor Newsom and the lawmakers who championed these reforms (Senators AllenKamlagerSkinnerSternWeiner, and Assemblymember Ting), their staff, and countless experts, scholars, and advocates who testified before the Committee and the legislature in support of these important reforms.

I’m also extremely grateful and indebted to my fellow Committee members Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblymember Alex Lee, former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza, Loyola Law School Professor Priscilla Ocen, and Senior U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.

These laws would not have come to pass without the close integration between the Three Strikes Project and Penal Code Committee. Stanford students and all Three Strikes Project attorneys contributed to the research and development of these proposals, especially Project staff attorney Lara Hoffman. The Committee is also independently staffed by legal director (and Stanford and Three Strikes Project alum) Thomas Nosewicz and staff attorney Rick Owen. We also partner for support on data analysis with faculty and staff at the California Policy Lab at UC Berkeley and UCLA. And the Committee receives critical financial backing from Arnold Ventures and the Just Trust

It was a busy, exhilarating, exhausting, but ultimately productive year in the legislature. We accomplished a lot and have much more work ahead of us in implementing these new laws and proposing new reforms for this coming legislative session. 

This was a huge effort with many people to thank—including all of you who receive this email and continue to support and encourage our work!

For more information about the Committee on Revision of the Penal Code, including our upcoming recommendations, reports, and hearings, please visit this website.

Thank you all!
Mike