In a decision that offers hope to thousands of juvenile offenders, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill co-sponsored by the Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP) at the USC Gould School of Law that establishes a new parole process for inmates who were under 18 when they committed their crimes.
The legislation paves the way for more than 6,000 California juveniles sentenced as adults to be released on parole after serving 15, 20 or 25 years in prison. This is one of the few pieces of legislation to modify or reduce sentences in California in more than 20 years — another being SB9, which allows juveniles sentenced to life without parole to petition courts for a parolable life term that PCJP worked to pass in 2012.
“Kids are different than adults,” said Heidi Rummel, co-director of PCJP and former federal prosecutor. “Too many kids are transferred to the adult system and sentenced to adult sentences without any consideration of their ability to change. Tremendous growth and maturity often occurs in the late teens through the mid-20s. Thankfully, California law is changing and now young people can focus on rehabilitation and prove they deserve a second chance.”
Following the passage of SB9, PCJP undertook representation of 12 juvenile offenders serving life without parole sentences, many who are in their 30s today.
USC law students are currently filing habeas petitions, conducting mitigation investigations, preparing for resentencing hearings and litigating novel legal arguments. The project anticipates representing juvenile offenders serving adult terms at the newly created Youth Offender Parole Hearings.