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.
Top photo credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation