California has the opportunity to continue leading the nation with comprehensive criminal justice reforms that protect children and keep communities safe. #cut50 is tackling some of the toughest policies in California related to juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) and policies for interactions between police and children. We're also pushing for in-depth reforms for money bail and felony murder.
In California, over 6,500 people in prison are under the age of 18 and as young as 14 years old at the time of their crime. Many have been transferred to the adult criminal justice system: kids were tried as adults and sentenced to adult prison terms, without any consideration of their ability to change. Law, science, and common sense all agree that teenagers are different from adults.
State and federal laws justify that people under the age of 18 are not mature enough to assume responsibilities of using alcohol or tobacco, signing a lease, joining the military, or voting. Research shows that certain areas of the brain, particularly those that affect judgment and decision-making, do not fully develop until the early 20′s, while tremendous growth and maturity occurs in the late teens through the mid-20s. Trying children as adults and sentencing them to adult prison terms ignores this simple and evident truth.
SB 394 would remedy the now unconstitutional juvenile sentences of life without the possibility of parole. This bill would also:
- Allow the approximate 290 juveniles with LWOP cases to be eligible for an initial parole hearing after 25 years of incarceration. There would be no guarantee of parole, only an opportunity for the person to work hard and try to earn the chance for parole.
- Streamline the process and bring California into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent ruling by making juveniles sentenced to life without parole eligible under the state’s existing youth offender parole (SB 260/PC 3051) process.
- Eliminate the need for the Montgomery hearing and other resentencing hearings.
In California, children - no matter how young - can waive their Miranda rights and be interrogated by law enforcement, despite numerous studies which show that children aren’t developmentally equipped to make such decisions. #cut50 and the California coalition have introduced legislation ensuring anyone under the age of 18 will be required to consult with a lawyer before they waive their Miranda rights and are interrogated by police.
SB 395 would ultimately protect our youth from being pressured into false confessions. It would further strengthen the application of Constitutional rights for a vulnerable demographic: children. This bill would:
- Require an attorney explain the Miranda rights and ensure that the youth understands. Counties already have public defense systems in place to provide this consultation.
- Allow youth to make their own decisions about whether to waive their rights.
This bill does not:
- Require an attorney to be present and can help the youth understand their rights by phone.
- Change the Miranda law in any way: Police can still talk to youth without reading their Miranda rights or calling an attorney when they are not being detained or arrested.
1. Write and send a letter to your State Senator and/or members of the Senate Appropriations Committee in support of SB 394: Senate Bill 394, also known as the Montgomery Bill, will be heard soon by the CA Senate Appropriations Committee soon. Read a short fact sheet of the bill here. Find a sample letter here with instructions on how to make your voice heard to the Committee and your State Senator.
2. Write and send a letter to your State Senator in support of SB 395: Senate Bill 395 will help protect the constitutional rights of children and youth facing interrogation by police. It would require that before a youth can be interrogated, the child would consult with an attorney who explains their Miranda rights and what it means to give up those rights. Find a sample letter here with instructions on how to make your voice heard to the Committee and your State Senator.
3. Educate yourself and friends on Proposition 57 (The Public Safety & Rehabilitation Act) and what we expect the regulations to be. Read this presentation about the regulations and utilize the sample letter to get your voice across on the regulations.