Gover­nor gives ju­ve­nile mur­der­ers chance at leav­ing prison

Manteca Bulletin - - Local/State -

SACRA­MENTO (AP) — Cal­i­for­nia in­mates serv­ing life sen­tences for crimes they com­mit­ted as ju­ve­niles will get a chance at leav­ing prison un­der one of sev­eral crim­i­nal jus­tice bills signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The leg­is­la­tion con­forms state law to re­cent U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sions ban­ning manda­tory life sen­tences for those un­der 18 con­victed of mur­der.

SB394 au­to­mat­i­cally gives the of­fend­ers a chance at pa­role after 25 years, though there’s no guar­an­tee they will be re­leased. State of­fi­cials said about three dozen of­fend­ers will be el­i­gi­ble for hear­ings over the next three years.

The high court last year ruled that nearly all ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers should even­tu­ally have a chance at pa­role un­less their crime re­flects a “per­ma­nent in­cor­ri­gi­bil­ity.” The jus­tices, and law­mak­ers back­ing the bill, cited ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers’ lack of devel­op­ment and po­ten­tial for change.

A re­lated bill ex­pands the state’s youth­ful pa­role pro­gram, which al­ready re­quires that in­mates who were un­der 23 when they com­mit­ted their crimes be con­sid­ered for pa­role after serv­ing at least 15 years. AB1308 raises the age to 25. The age was just 18 when law­mak­ers passed the first youth of­fender pa­role law in 2012.

At the op­po­site end of the age spec­trum, Brown also ap­proved con­sid­er­ing pa­role for in­mates who are age 60 or older and have served at least 25 years.

Brown said in a sign­ing mes­sage that AB1448 largely mir­rors a 2014 fed­eral court or­der de­signed to help re­duce prison over­crowd­ing. Both the court or­der and the new law ex­clude death row and other no-pa­role in­mates, and the leg­is­la­tion fur­ther ex­cludes cop killers and third-strike ca­reer crim­i­nals.

The Demo­cratic gover­nor said law­mak­ers should even­tu­ally ex­pand the pro­gram.

He said the pro­gram saves money “that oth­er­wise would be spent car­ing for geri­atric prison­ers who no longer pose a risk to pub­lic safety,” adding, “I be­lieve the pool of el­i­gi­ble in­mates can and should be broad­ened. This can be done safely, as the cur­rent pro­gram has shown.”

Two other bills ad­dress sen­tenc­ing en­hance­ments that the gover­nor has crit­i­cized for adding years to prison terms. SB180 re­peals the three- year sen­tence en­hance­ment for re­peat drug of­fend­ers. SB620 gives judges dis­cre­tion whether to im­pose ad­di­tional years in prison on of­fend­ers who use guns dur­ing crimes, in­stead of mak­ing the en­hance­ment au­to­matic.

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