Senate votes to end sentencing of 14- and 15-year-olds in adult criminal court

May 30, 2018

SACRAMENTO – The California Senate today approved Senate Bill 1391, which prohibits 14- and 15-year-olds from being tried as adults in criminal court and subsequently sent to adult prison.

SB 1391 is part of the #EquityAndJustice2018 package jointly authored by Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles).

The bill reverses laws passed in the 1990s that allowed for sentencing the youngest teens to the adult criminal justice system.  

“California criminal law did not always treat 14- and 15-year-olds as adults, and we now recognize that youth are still developing and have a greater capacity to change,” said Senator Lara. “Keeping youth in the juvenile system does not mean they get off with a slap on the wrist, but they also receive age-appropriate services and programs to rehabilitate and grow into healthy, mature adults.”

“In developing public policy it should be our goal to create systems based on science and results,” said Senator Mitchell. “Research has verified for us that 14 and 15 year olds are not pint-sized adults, and we also understand the failing of our adult corrections facilities to address rehabilitation and reentry. To expect a child to thrive in that area would be foolhardy.”

SB 1391 is sponsored by Human Rights Watch, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, the National Center for Youth Law, Pacific Juvenile Defender Center, Silicon Valley De-Bug and the W. Haywood Burns Institute, and supported by more than 60 organizations.

The other bills in this year’s #EquityAndJustice2018 package are:

SB 439 – Minimum Age Incarceration

This juvenile justice-reform measure would exclude children age 11 and younger from juvenile court jurisdiction and would promote the rights, health and well-being of the child by curbing premature exposure to incarceration. Status: Awaiting review by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

SB 1050 – Services for exonerated people

This would provide services and support for exonerated people after prison, including healthcare, work training and updating exoneree records to reflect their wrongful convictions. Status: Approved 38-0 by the Senate and now awaiting review by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

SB 1392 – One-Year Repeal

This proposal would repeal the 1-year sentence enhancement for felony convictions Status: Waiting to be taken up by the Senate.

SB 1393 – Five-Year Judicial Discretion

This proposal would return to prior statutory authority for judicial discretion on five-year enhancements for serious felony convictions. Status: Approved by the Senate in early May, this bill will next be voted on by the Assembly Public Safety Committee; no date has yet been set.

SB 1391 will next be heard by an Assembly committee.

Sen. Ricardo Lara is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was first elected to the Legislature in 2010. He represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 33, which includes Long Beach and the Southeast Los Angeles cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, South Gate, and much of Los Angeles. More at www.senate.ca.gov/lara

Sen. Holly J. Mitchell is chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. A member of the Legislature for more than six years, she represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 30, which includes Culver City and much of Los Angeles. See a map of Mitchell’s district that includes a demographic breakdown of its residents and more HERE. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/Mitchell

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