The California state Assembly has passed a bill, SB-9, on to the state Senate that would allow minors sentenced to life in prison the ability to apply for a new sentence.
UCLA Luskin School social welfare professor, Laura Abrams, and social welfare student, Alea Bell, wrote a brief concerning the bill earlier this year that was handed out to all of the Assembly members.
The brief, which brings up the possibility of a juvenile sentence to life in prison without parole, requests the ability for the juvenile offenders to have a chance to apply for a new sentence if they are able to show personal growth and change.
"It is a modest bill that provides the opportunity for some 300 inmates in California to reverse a juvenile life without parole sentence to a 25- to-life sentence based on the premise that young people are capable of rehabilitation and that they often make irresponsible decisions when they are young," Abrams said. "This growing trend is also reflected in a recent Supreme Court decision – Miller vs. Alabama – that laws requiring youths convicted of murder to be sentenced to die in prison violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment."
Abrams notes that these decisions and lessons are important for the UCLA Luskin social welfare students because "they show what concerted advocacy can do on the national and local level."
The bill applies to prisoners who committed their crimes when they were younger than 18 years old and have served at least 15 years before they petition the court that originally sentenced them to change the sentence to allow parole after 25 years.