California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a slate of seven juvenile justice bills into law on Wednesday, highlighting a push for sentencing reform and greater support for the rights of youth and families involved with the justice system.
The new laws include the following:
- AB 529 will require counties to seal juvenile records once a charge has been dismissed.
- AB 1308 provides greater opportunities for parole for offenders who were sentenced to long prison terms before the age of 25.
- SB 190 will abolish the practice of assessing fees on the families of youth who are involved with county juvenile-justice systems.
- SB 312 allows courts to seal the records for certain offenses committed by juveniles.
- SB 394 allows offenders who were sentenced to life without parole sentences as juveniles to be eligible for parole hearings after 25 years, bringing the state into line with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
- SB 395 will require all children 15 years or younger to consult with an attorney before being able to waive their Miranda rights during a police interrogation.
- SB 625 allows youth who successfully complete a probation term after being released from the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice to earn an honorable discharge.
Several of the bills were part of a package of bills sponsored by state Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), who helped rally thousands to Sacramento in August for a free concert featuring the rapper Common in support of criminal justice reform.
Among their bills was SB 190, which will abolish administrative fees placed on families of youth overseen by county probation departments in the state. A report from the University of California, Berkeley’s Policy Advocacy Clinic found that fees for probation supervision, legal counsel and drug testing represent a costly burden for families of youth in the juvenile justice system.
SB 395 will now ensure that all youth under the age of 16 have the opportunity to consult with a lawyer before being interrogated by a law enforcement officer. This lawyer will ensure that the youth understand their Miranda rights. After a similar bill failed last year, SB 395 will make the state’s criminal justice system stronger, according to Elizabeth Calvin, an attorney with Human Rights Watch who helped lead the campaign for the bill.
“Having young people understand their rights is not going to harm the justice system,” Calvin said. “In fact, it’s going to make it better because the constitutional protections in this country are really what makes the criminal justice system have the potential to be fair and just.”
Calvin also hailed Brown’s efforts to support robust criminal justice reforms in the state.
“I think he’s trying to reduce extreme sentences, give people hope and motivation and increase the possibility that people will choose the path of rehabilitation,” Calvin said. “That’s a through line for a lot of these bills, whether they’re juvenile or criminal.”