The California legislature has passed State Senate Bill 9, the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act! This bill, authored by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) allows inmates who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles the chance to request a resentencing hearing after serving 15 years.
The US Supreme Court ruled June 25, 2012 that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles under 18 violate the 8th Amendment. There are currently 28 states, and the federal government, that allow mandatory life without parole sentences for children.
At the heart of the decision is the recognition that it is fundamentally unjust to mandate a life sentence for children convicted of homicide without considering mitigating factors.
Adolfo Davis was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a crime he committed at age 14. Now, advocates for Adolfo, who has languished in prison for two decades, are pushing Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to grant clemency in his case.
There is growing public awareness that is it unjust to hold juvenile offenders to the same standard of blame as adults. Scientific research shows that youth do not have the same capacity as adults to use reasoned, mature judgment, or to control impulsive behavior. Newspaper editorials across the nation increasingly embrace the notion that “[c]hildren, even really bad ones, are different from adults” and should be treated differently in criminal sentencing because “they haven’t yet developed an adult’s brainpower, resistance to peer pressure, judgment, and thus moral capacity” (LA Times editorial).
NCYL has been a part of this movement, intensifying its work in California and the national arena over the past year. NCYL’s efforts include:
Playing a key role in creating a National Campaign Coordinator position for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, which helps advocates push for state and federal legislation to eliminate life without parole sentences for youth
Co-sponsoring California Senate Bill SB 9, which would provide the opportunity for youth serving life without parole to reduce their sentences
Supporting Graham v. Florida, a US Supreme Court case that ruled it unconstitutional to sentence youth to life without parole for non-homicide crimes