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Will California Implement Humane Sentencing for Juvenile Offenders?

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Will California Implement Humane Sentencing for Juvenile Offenders?

This week, California lawmakers could decide on a measure that would allow juvenile offenders a second chance.

California SB 9 would give minors sentenced to life without parole a chance to request a parole hearing. Lawmakers have been reluctant to vote in favor of similar measures in the past out of fear they’d be labeled as soft on crime.

However, the facts of this legislation show otherwise. The bill would in no way automatically open the cell door for violent criminals and would not eliminate the life without parole sentence for anyone, juvenile or adult.

What it would do is give inmates serving a life sentence for crimes committed before their 18th birthday the opportunity to seek a 25 years to life sentence instead of life without parole, according to the LA Times.

The chance for murderers to get out of prison before they die would still be slim.

Juvenile Brains Less Developed

According to a piece in the LA Times, California has 295 people serving a life sentence without parole for crimes they committed as minors. Most of those prisoners were involved in homicides, but almost half of those inmates were not the one who pulled the trigger.

They are locked up for acting as lookouts or being involved on another level. Many of them were accomplices to a crime in which an adult actually committed the murder.

The bill is not intended to let offenders walk away from heinous crimes with a slap on the wrist. It does recognize the fact that juvenile brains are less developed than that of an adult and they are less able to control impulses and make rational moral decisions.

Research also shows they have a greater capacity to be rehabilitated, unlike their adult counterparts. It is also important to consider the racial implications. African American youths are sentenced to life without parole at a rate ten-times higher than white juveniles who commit similar crimes.

California’s measure paves the way for fairness in the criminal justice system and brings us a step closure to treating all convicted criminals the same, regardless of their skin color.

Originally published on

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