California Passes New Parole Law For Young Offenders

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a law today that gives juvenile offenders convicted as adults a “meaningful opportunity” for parole.

Senate Bill 260 creates a parole process that takes into account the age of juvenile offenders convicted in adult court. It sets specific years during a sentence in which a “youth offender parole hearing” must be conducted:

  • For juveniles with sentences between 25 years and life, a hearing must be held during his 25th year of incarceration.
  • For juveniles with a sentence that ranges from below 25 years to life, the hearing must be held during his 20th year of incarceration.
  • For juveniles with any other sentence, the hearing must be held by his 15th year of incarceration.

Also, the Board of Parole Hearings must meet with such inmates six years before parole eligibility to help him prepare and improve his chances of receiving parole.

The process will also consider subsequent rehabilitation as a key factor in determining suitability for parole.

“Extremely long prison sentences create despair for young people,” said Elizabeth Calvin, senior child rights advocate at Human Rights Watch, in a statement following the bill signing.  “When young people enter prison with a sentence that is three, four, or more times their current age, they can feel like giving up. This new law will provide careful review of these youths as they grow up, and a real chance at parole.”

More than 6,500 youth offenders who were sentenced to adult prison terms are currently in California state prisons. Some were as young as 14 when the crime was committed and approximately half are serving life sentences.

The law is retroactive, and Human Rights Watch estimates that about 5,000 of those 6,500 youth offenders will be eligible for hearings.

Governor Brown cited SB 260 as evidence of the state’s efforts to reduce prison crowding, and listed SB 260 as an example of “historic reforms demonstrat[ing] the State’s clear commitment to… developing lasting, balanced, and cost-effective solutions for California’s prisons.”

SB 360 does not provide relief to juveniles who are sentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). Another law signed by Brown last year required resentencing hearings for juveniles with LWOP sentences 15 years into the sentence, but made no guarantee of a parole hearing.

The U.S. Supreme Court banned LWOP sentences for juveniles that are not convicted of homicides in 2010. Another Supreme Court ruling last year forbade states from subjecting juveniles to LWOP through automatic sentencing schemes.

California is the first state since the two high court rulings to respond with legislation to adult sentences for juveniles across the board. A bill that has passed the House but not the Senate in Connecticut would mandate sentencing reviews for all juveniles who receive more than ten years in prison. The hearings would occur after 60 percent of the minimum sentence is served.

In other states, judges have simply substituted LWOP sentences stricken down by the high court with specific sentences that would keep the inmates in prison until their twilight years.

Ryann Blackshere is a reporter for The Chronicle of Social Change

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8 Comments

  1. My brother has been in prison for 21 years and he committed nothing more than a theft, but because he went to trial and loss, he was granted a life sentence without the benefit of parole or suspended sentence. I believe he’s done enough time on that charge and should be set free. Our Governor is John Bel Edwards and he’s pushing for this Bill to be admitted and made Law,., I support it 100% and all others who have a love one should also support it,. P. S I’m in Shreveport, LA

  2. I hope that none of you with bad comments have a loved in prison… then you would really be pushing for a law like this to pass. My husband had been in prison for 20 years and his parole date was in 2008… since we dont have a good lawyer and cant push any papers.. its 2015 and he is still serving his 15-life sentence.. Its unfair and unjust. This is one of the reasons why there is overpopulation.. for their carelessness..

  3. I read the concern that juvenile, could give-up. What about the victim. The one who’s love one wasn’t given a choice. This is Ludicas.

  4. If they committed crimes worthy of being tried as an adult, maybe they should have thought before they acted.

  5. My husband been in prison since 15 yes old its 32 yes later waiting on SB260 to kick in and help is there any one to really help him if so please give me a call 916 504-6962. thanks

  6. Hey folks, kids get placed in adult court all the time. What’s the point of leaving them in juvenile court so it hangs over there heard into there adult lives. If it’s that bad place them in adult court….. Oh, they don’t like that… In adult court, there is a judge, jury, and due process….very easy to convict juveniles

    Juvenile offender

  7. I believe that jail population is issue due to the misconduct of court system and prosecution officials who have individuals incarsecrated for variety of crimes and a certain individuals who are innonence and havent committed some of the alleged crimes.what happen for them to be incarsecerated for several years.its not fair for unexplainable

  8. the 3 strike law is to harsh keeping inmates in prison 25yrs to life is to long for anything exspecially if they didnt kill, rape, murder any one too long is too long and more crimes still happen all of the world your not going to change anything let the prisoners that are low level and medium level out whats the point ca states keep holding them but letting murders go free every day cant hold them all a waste of tax payers money lets see put yourselves in there place lets see how you feel

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