Target: Legislators of the California Assembly
Goal: Applaud California legislators for proposing bill that will eliminate excessive sentences for juveniles
California legislators recently proposed a bill that would ease harsh punishments for crimes committed by juvenile offenders. Senate Bill 260 will essentially change how California law approaches the prosecution of youths. Critics say existing laws do not make proper distinctions between youth offenders and adult ones. Over 6,500 youths are incarcerated in California state prisons. Some were as young as 14 when they were locked up, and over half of them are serving life sentences. It is ludicrous to label juveniles in the same category as adult offenders.
The US Supreme Court has also agreed in several cases that there are stark developmental differences between adults and children, and that juveniles are more capable of rehabilitation than adults. Therefore, they deserve special consideration when a sentence is handed down. For example, in 2012 a California Supreme Court ruled that a 16 year old sentenced to 110 years for 3 counts of attempted murder in a gang fueled shooting, was cruel and unusual punishment. The California Supreme Court had invoked a US Supreme Court decision (Graham vs Florida), in which the 8th amendment prohibits states from sentencing a juvenile to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for non-homicidal charges.
This senate bill will pave a path for parole for youth offenders and change state law in compliance with these landmark cases. If the bill is passed, a review will take place for all juvenile offenders who have served for at least 15 years and were charged as adults. A board will consider whether these young offenders are eligible to go before a parole board. There is great optimism that this bill will pass because it has high bipartisan support.
Sign this petition to thank legislators for supporting a more sensible judicial system. This bill will give convicted juveniles a second chance at life and give them an opportunity to become productive members of society.
Dear Legislators of the California Assembly,
Thank you for proposing a sensible amendment to the California judicial system. What good is a justice system that doesn’t allow the possibility of a second chance at life for juveniles. To simply put it: they are still children! It is wrong to treat juveniles like irreparable, depraved animals. A life sentence without a possibility of parole is a disincentive for juvenile offenders to rehabilitate themselves. It will only cause psychological problems and cause them to become hardened criminals. Our prisons are already overpopulated and the expenses for running these institutions continue to sky rocket. Locking up 14 year old’s for life will only exacerbate the problem.
Please continue to pass meaningful legislation to fix our dysfunctional and overcrowded state prisons.
[Your Name Here]
Image Credit: Jen-the-libriarian via Flickr