Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, March 31.

Years-long waits

It’s a shocking statistic: 75% of the inmates in California’s county jails — more than 44,000 people — have not been convicted or sentenced for a crime.

Instead, they’re largely waiting for arraignment, trial or sentencing. At least 1,300 people have been waiting for more than three years, 332 for more than five years, and one for almost 12 years, CalMatters’ Robert Lewis reports in a new investigation, “Waiting for Justice.” The numbers showcase how California’s backlogged judicial system — which has incurred even more delays amid the pandemic — denies defendants one of the country’s most sacred legal principles: innocent until proven guilty. But it isn’t just the inmates who are stuck in limbo — each day the cases drag on is another day victims’ families don’t get closure.

Last week, the California Supreme Court ruled that it’s unconstitutional to keep defendants behind bars while awaiting trial simply because they can’t afford bail. But, as Robert points out, the ruling leaves many questions unanswered — meaning it will result in even more litigation dragging through the courts.

As such, it’s unlikely to immediately alleviate pressure on overcrowded jails, which — unlike prisons — aren’t built to hold people for years at a time. A scathing report released last week by the state auditor found that jails in Alameda, Fresno and Los Angeles counties lacked “sufficient educational, rehabilitative, and exercise opportunities” and that Alameda and Fresno jails didn’t know whether inmates had mental illnesses.

DeAndre Davis, charged with the murder of a man shot during a 2019 robbery, has been waiting 651 days in a Sacramento County jail without even a preliminary hearing to decide whether there’s enough evidence to take him to trial.

  • Davis, 37: “I’ve lost so much of my life in here, fighting this case.”

Check out Robert’s story for interactive timelines taking you through the interminable waits endured by defendants and victims’ families.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,566,464 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 57,788 deaths (+0% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 17,649,015 vaccine doses.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.


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1. Reflecting on César Chávez Day

In this March 7, 1979, file photo, United Farm Workers President Cesar Chavez talks to striking Salinas Valley farmworkers during a large rally in Salinas. Photo by Paul Sakuma, AP File Photo

Today, First Lady Jill Biden will join Gov. Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom in Delano for César Chávez Day, a California holiday commemorating the birthday of the United Farm Workers founder. Chávez has been in the news a lot lately — Newsom’s attorney general nominee, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, described being profoundly influenced by his parents’ work organizing Latino and Filipino farmworkers alongside Chávez. And last week, the U.S. Supreme Court appeared poised to restrict or overturn a landmark California law championed by Chávez that permits unions to enter growers’ private property to encourage farmworkers to organize.

But the farmworkers’ rights icon also has a complex and sometimes problematic legacy — one that might not pass muster with the San Francisco school board or proponents of removing statues of controversial historical figures, Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano writes.

  • Arellano: “History — life — is not an easy-peasy snap-judgment call. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: Every saint had a past, and every sinner has a future. And Chávez is perhaps as great an example of this in California history.”

2. More counties advance into orange tier

Carmen Osuna and her son Albert return to indoor workouts at 24 Hour Fitness in Redwood City on Feb. 24, 2021. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group

Thirteen more counties moved into less restrictive reopening tiers Tuesday, leaving a record low of three — Inyo, Merced and San Joaquin — in the most restrictive purple tier. Some of the state’s largest counties — including Alameda, Los Angeles and Orange — moved into the second-least restrictive orange tier, which increases the capacity at which restaurants, gyms and movie theaters can operate indoors while also clearing the way for bars and offices to reopen. Amusement parks and stadiums in orange-tier counties can also reopen at 25% and 33% capacity, respectively, starting Thursday. More than 97% of the state’s population now lives in red- or orange-tier counties, even as experts warn a fourth wave of coronavirus cases could be on the horizon.

Meanwhile, it appears the state is no longer pursuing a partnership with the federal government to set up a mass vaccination site in the Central Valley, although Newsom in February said such a site was imminent.

California will also lose two FEMA-run mass vaccination sites in Oakland and Los Angeles on April 11 — four days before opening vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older — because it didn’t ask the feds to keep operating them, CapRadio reports. The sites had each administered up to 7,500 doses daily — additional supply from the federal government that California will lose once FEMA withdraws.

3. Majority of voters oppose Newsom recall

Newsom speaks to the press during a visit to Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda on March 16, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

If a special election to recall Newsom were held today, 56% of likely voters would vote to keep the governor in office, 40% would vote to replace him and 5% would be undecided, according to a poll released late Tuesday night by the Public Policy Institute of California. The numbers suggest that Newsom’s standing has improved among voters: In a February poll released by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, 45% of voters said they would vote to keep Newsom in office, compared to 36% who wanted to replace him and 19% who were undecided.

The governor’s approval rating has also held steady in 2021, with 53% of likely voters giving him good marks in Tuesday’s PPIC poll — slightly up from 52% in February. Although that’s down from a record high of 65% in June 2020, it’s more or less unchanged from his approval rating of 52% in February 2020, a month before the pandemic hit. The poll indicates that recall proponents have their work cut out for them, especially when it comes to attracting Democrats and independents.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: It’s time for a rigorous analysis of whether California’s taxes and regulations are driving businesses and jobs to more hospitable states.

A new hotline: The death of my son underscores why mental health professionals, not police, should respond to mental health crises, writes Taun Hall, founder of the Miles Hall Foundation.

Newsom’s wasteful water practices: The State Water Resources Control Board must adopt a comprehensive, science-based plan to restore the San Francisco Bay, argues Jon Rosenfield of San Francisco Baykeeper.

How to help independent contractors: The spectacle of unions and legislatures drawing up rules for us to live and work by fills me with anger and dismay, writes Mike Bradley of Oakland.


Other things worth your time

Everyone 16 and older now can get shots in Contra Costa County — a Bay Area first. // San Francisco Chronicle

‘Fantastic news for the Class of 2021’: California OKs in-person graduations this year. // Mercury News

Newsom’s coronavirus restrictions on private gatherings pass court’s muster. // San Francisco Chronicle

How California sheriff falsely linked man’s death to COVID vaccine. // Sacramento Bee

Federal health agency flags aid paid to California clinic. // Wall Street Journal

California considering letting kids add parents to their insurance plans. // National Law Review

Lawmakers want California to create free banking services. // Sacramento Business Journal

California utilities want to slash subsidies for solar rooftops. // Sacramento Bee

Newsom sets aside $80 million for more firefighters, anticipating another bad year for wildfires. // San Francisco Chronicle

Los Angeles County asks to be dismissed from high-profile homelessness lawsuit. // Daily News

Two people living in a cave under Bay Area bridge discovered by construction workers. // San Francisco Chronicle


See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...