Sunday, January 25, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Bill gives youthful offenders second chance

By
From page A2 | August 18, 2013 |

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Criminals serving long prison sentences for offenses they committed as teenagers would have an earlier chance for freedom under a bill working its way through the Legislature.

The bill by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, expands on legislation signed into law last year that gives a second chance to inmates who committed murder before they turned 18 and were sentenced to life without parole.

Hancock’s bill covers other offenders and requires the Board of Parole Hearings to give “great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles” and to signs that they have matured in prison. Parole commissioners also would have to individually counsel offenders about the steps they should take to earn their freedom.

Under the bill, SB260, inmates who committed such crimes as voluntary and involuntary manslaughter as teenagers would be presumed eligible for parole after 15 years unless officials believe they present a threat to public safety. Inmates also could ask for release after serving 25 years for first-degree murder if the sentence included the possibility of parole.

“If you’re a 15-year-old when you’re convicted of even a very serious crime, by the time you’re 35 you’re going to be a different person,” Hancock said in an interview. “Those who don’t significantly change in prison are not going to be eligible for this program or this opportunity.”

The bill has the backing of Scott Budnick, executive producer of “The Hangover” comedy movies, who has gained national attention for mentoring juvenile offenders through his nonprofit Anti-Recidivism Coalition.

“You need a tangible reason as to why to leave the gang life, why to leave violence, why to leave that lifestyle and go toward something more positive,” Budnick said in a telephone interview. “They know that they must — if they ever want to hug their mother again not in a prison visiting room — then they must change their life immediately.”

About 5,700 of California’s 133,000 adult inmates are currently in prison for crimes they committed as juveniles. Of those, nearly 1,500 will have served at least 15 years behind bars by Jan. 1, when the bill would take effect if it is signed into law. More than 700 will have served at least 20 years, and more than 300 will have served at least 25 years in prison.

Hancock’s bill responds to recent court rulings addressing non-homicide crimes committed by juveniles who were tried as adults. But the California District Attorneys Association opposes the legislation because it goes further than those decisions by also including murder and manslaughter.

In August 2012, the California Supreme Court overturned a juvenile offender’s 110-year prison sentence for attempted murder, ruling that the sentence amounted to an unconstitutional life sentence for a 16-year-old. Rodrigo Caballero would have had to wait 100 years before he could even apply for parole for trying to kill three rival gang members in Los Angeles County.

The state’s high court was, in turn, responding to a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that life sentences without a chance for parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes were unconstitutional because they amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Supporters of the Hancock bill argue that young criminals are more likely to be rehabilitated than older criminals. That was the same argument made last year in favor of SB9, which eventually was signed into law and gave those convicted of murder as juveniles a chance at parole. Many of the same groups are backing Hancock’s bill.

“People under 18 are different from adults, and we need to treat them different,” said Elizabeth Calvin, an advocate with the children’s rights division of Human Rights Watch, which is among reform groups supporting the measure. Although Hancock’s bill goes beyond current court decisions, Calvin argued that the courts are clearly trending toward giving young offenders an eventual way out of prison for any crime.

Legislative analysts project it would cost the state more than $3 million to consider parole for offenders who would immediately qualify if the bill becomes law, and hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for addition hearings as more inmates become eligible. But that would be offset by lower incarceration costs as offenders are released.

The measure eventually would mean fewer inmates as the state struggles to comply with federal court orders requiring a reduction in prison crowding. Gov. Jerry Brown is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that the state release 10,000 inmates by the end of the year in addition to the thousands who already being sentenced to county jails instead of state prison under a two-year-old state law.

Hancock’s bill is edging out similar legislation by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica. Bloom’s AB1276 stalled in the Senate Public Safety Committee, where Hancock is chairwoman. Bloom is now a co-author of Hancock’s bill.

Both lawmakers say their legislation is better than the alternative if nothing happens. With no new law, the courts would be clogged with petitions from offenders who argue that they face what amounts to an improper life sentence after their convictions as juveniles.

Both measures passed their initial chambers with bipartisan support. Three Republican senators backed Hancock’s bill, while two Democrats voted against it.

Opponents said the bills could lead to the early release of some criminals who committed heinous crimes as teenagers.

“We think of them as all sweet innocence, but they are not,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, who once headed the state parole board. He called Hancock’s bill “an easy ticket out for the most violent juvenile offenders.”

————

By Don Thompson

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

.

News

Four days of unusual, adventuresome music

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Red Cross honors community heroes

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Bridges of Yolo County: Wear, tear … repair?

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Spanish police arrest 4 suspected members of a jihadi cell

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Abortion opponents express renewed hope at California rally

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Fake schools draw federal scrutiny

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Winter produce available at Sutter market

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Sip wines at St. James’ annual tasting

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Logos Books celebrates 5 years, offers language groups

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Australian olive oil company opens U.S. headquarters in Woodland

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Explore at the YOLO Outdoor Expo

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Donations to be distributed during homeless count

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

 
Speaker will share computer security tips

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Yolo animal shelter seeking rawhide donations

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

 
Woodland Healthcare employees take Great Kindness Challenge

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

At the Pond: Nest boxes give birds new homes

By Jean Jackman | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Music and Words Festival events

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12

 
Davis, Woodland are saving water

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A12

.

Forum

Family isn’t keen on relationship

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

 
 
Caring for the aging mouth

By Samer Alassaad | From Page: A8

Rick McKee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
Big utilities’ nightmare begins to play out

By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

Mayor’s Corner: Let’s renew Davis together

By Dan Wolk | From Page: A10

 
We have the right to choose

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

We don’t have to suffer

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
City helped immensely

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

When measles spreads from Disneyland, it’s a small world after all

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

 
From innovation parks to innovative buildings and planning

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Lady Devils hold off Pacers, stay perfect in league

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Wildcats’ inaugural kids development league exceeds expectations

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Aggies get top 2015 gymnastics score, but fall short

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Loud crowd sees DHS boys win

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

UCD men take two tennis matches

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

 
Watney in ninth at Humana Challenge

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

 
UCD grad makes insurance ‘hot 100′ list

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Yolo County real estate sales

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9

 
Davis man focusing on cannabidiol business

By Will Bellamy | From Page: A9

Marrone Bio’s Regalia approved for new uses in Canada

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

 
.

Obituaries

Thomas George Byrne

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, January 25, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B8