Fair Sentencing for Youth



Take Action! Thank your local legislator!

Celebrate Children’s Rights Progress!

We played a big role in three significant wins for California children this year.

Help us thank leaders who stood up for children’s rights! It is important for policymakers to know that we appreciate their support for SB 394, AB 1308, and SB 395. If you do not know who your representatives are, use this easy search engine.

Call Governor Brown at (916) 445-2841, or send him a tweet at @JerryBrownGov to say thanks.

See if your representative voted for these bills, and get their phone numbers and twitter handles here.

The call is as simple as: “My name is ___________, and I am calling to thank the Governor [or Senator, or Assembly Member] for supporting these important bills, SB 394, AB 1308, and SB 395.”

The tweet could say: “Thank you [@twitterhandle] for supporting [#SB394/#SB395/#AB1308] and advancing #childrensrights in #CA! @hrw.”

SB 394 means children in California will no longer be sentenced to die in prison. It gives people who committed a crime under age 18 and were sentenced to life without parole the chance to earn release and come home. No other country outside the US imposes life without parole sentences on children.

AB 1308 protects transition-age youth sent to prison, giving them special opportunities by extending eligibility for “Youth Offender Parole” through age 25. The new law means young people will be treated fairly, and have a better chance at parole.

SB 395 protects children in police custody, ensuring that they’re not alone when making complex legal decisions, like whether to give up their rights. Now, police in California will not be able to interrogate children age 15 and under until a child has consulted with an attorney.

SB 1391 passes in the Assembly Public Safety Committee!

Senate Bill 1391 passed in the CA Assembly Committee on Public Safety on June 26th, with a 5-2 vote. It is now headed to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

We had a successful day of visits with Assembly members yesterday, and we need your support in asking your Assembly members to vote yes on SB 1391. Click on this link and take action, support #SB1391!

Bill to End California Sending 14- & 15-Year-Olds to the Adult Criminal System to be Voted on!

An important effort to end the trying of youth as adults is headed to a committee vote on June 26th! Help SB 1391 pass by clicking here for easy-to-use  letters of support.



Tuesday, June 19th at 8pm CARES for Youth Call guest Shaka Senghor

Shaka Senghor tells his story of redemption and vision as the new director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.

He was powerful in his TED Talk, powerful in an interview with Oprah, and he’ll be powerful, here, too. Shaka is the new Executive Director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition. His memoir, is Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison, is a tribute to human strength, and his TED Talk, “Why your Worst Deeds Don’t Define You” reminds us that our worst deeds don’t define who we are or what we can contribute to the world. Join us to hear this powerful speaker.

Tuesday, June 19th at 8pm

Call: (515) 604-9384

Code: 313882#


Join the CARES Call June 5th at 8pm

Sexual abuse. Sex trafficking. Violence against girls. 
In a perverse twist of justice, many girls who experience abuse are routed into the justice system because of their victimization. Violence against girls is a painfully American tale. Our guests on Tuesday will talk about 

Violence against girls is a painfully American tale.
The facts are staggering: one in four American girls will experience some form of sexual violence by the age of 18. Fifteen percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 12; nearly half of all female rape survivors were victimized before the age of 18. Many end up in the criminal justice system. Our guests will talk about the reality of girls being victimized, and how to stop an abusive system response. Read this important report to learn more: THE SEXUAL ABUSE TO PRISON PIPELINE: THE GIRLS’ STORY.
Join the call: (515) 604-9384  Code: 313882#


This week the California Senate Passed SB 1391! It means California is one step closer to ending the practice of sending kids under age 16 to the adult criminal system. Next, it must be heard by the Assembly. Thank you to everyone who made calls and sent letters.  


CARES Call May 15th, 8pm: Phal Sok speaks on his remarkable life & immigration laws in the US

Join the call! Phal was a youth tried as an adult shortly after his father passed away in 1999. He was sentenced to nearly 24 years in prison but became eligible for earlier parole through SB 260 youth parole. He was one of the first non-lifers to be found suitable! However, when paroled, Phal was detained by immigration authorities and ordered deported to Cambodia.  Finally released in March of 2016, he returned home for the first time in 17 years. He’ll share his story with CARES and will also talk about the removal of undocumented people from the US, the privatization of immigration detention centers, and how deportation laws affect the community at large.

Throughout California and the nation, undocumented immigrants are concerned about their future. Undocumented individuals who are convicted of a felony face deportation upon their release from prison. Phal will share his views on how this broken system focuses on people of color and how for many it becomes a second form of punishment. 

Join our next CARES for Youth Call 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at 8pm 

with Phal Sok, Organizer, Youth Justice Coalition

Call: (515) 604-9384  Code: 313882#

Find a picture of yourself at age 14 or 15 and you can help pass SB 1391! 

Dig up a picture of yourself at age 14 or 15 and help remind Californians just how young kids sentenced as adults can be. Click and let us know here if you can find a photo of yourself by May 23rd. We’ll send you some suggested tweets/Facebook posts, etc. and a reminder when the campaign starts the last week in May. We’ll ask people to post pictures of themselves at age 14 or 15 with a statement of support for SB 1391 and the hashtags: #LifeAt14 / #LifeAt15, #CareNotCages, #PassSB1391. 


Working to End the Practice of Trying Youth as Adults in California

Youth Promise Policy Fellowship Description
A broad range of organizations is working to end the practice of trying children as adults in California. Four summer fellows will be employed by community-based organizations in diverse areas of the state. The fellows will lead public education and awareness-raising campaigns about the practice of prosecuting youth as adults. People who had experience with the juvenile or criminal system for crimes that occurred when they were under 18 are encouraged to apply.

There is a growing awareness of the need to give young people a real chance in life, and that harsh adult prison sentences are harmful not only to youth but society as a whole. Advocates across the state are working to roll back laws allowing transfer of youth to adult court. It is necessary to build public support for this important change. That is where you come in. The Youth Promise Policy Fellowships will rely on the expertise and compelling perspective of young people who were in the juvenile or adult system for serious crimes that occurred under the age of 18. The fellows will be employed by local nonprofit, community-based organizations that work on youth justice-related issues.  

The fellows will use a variety of education and awareness-raising methods to inform the general public about why trying youth as adults is wrong, create awareness of alternatives to this practice, and build support for change. Activities could include: Speaking at civic and religious organizations, colleges, and community settings; holding town halls; participating in community events, festivals, fairs, and other gatherings; meeting with key community stakeholders; developing educational materials; speaking to media; generating social media; etc. The fellows may also work with the sponsoring community organization on some of its related priorities. At the end of the summer each fellow will write a summary of their activities and analyze the effect of their work in the community.

Exact locations are to be determined. The following counties are priorities, but other locations will be considered, depending on the best applicants: Contra Costa, Fresno, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and San Joaquin.

Payment and Supervision

  • The fellowship is full time for up to 12 weeks, with payment of $15 per hour, for a total of $7,200 for a 12-week period.
  • Fellows will be employed and supervised by the community-based organization.
  • Fellows will additionally meet regularly by phone with an advisory committee of policy experts from groups such as Human Rights Watch, the National Center for Youth Law, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and others.


  • Applicants should be students in community college, tech/trade school, a four-year college, or university;
  • Successful applicants will be well-organized, self-motivated, creative thinkers, with demonstrated initiative and reliability;
  • Willingness to speak about personal experience with juvenile or criminal court involvement for serious crimes occurring prior to the age of 18 is highly desirable because it will ensure fellows are effective messengers who can convey knowledge about the system;
  • Experience in community organizing, leadership positions, public speaking, or advocacy is preferred;
  • Computer skills (i.e., MS Word, MS Excel, internet applications) are required and experience with graphic design, web design, social media, and online communication tools is a plus; and
  • Reliable transportation is required.

How to Apply
Please apply immediately by sending a brief letter of interest and resume to ecalvin@hrw.org.  All application materials should be sent as an attachment in a PDF or Word document. Please use “Policy Fellowship Application – Summer 2018” as the subject of your email. Only complete applications will be reviewed. 

Questions? Please call Elizabeth Calvin at Human Rights Watch, 310-477-5540.

First applications will be considered the week of May 7th, 2018. 



May 1st 8pm CARES Call is on Commutations and Pardons. Join us!

Join CARES for Youth for a candid and informative discussion of pardons and commutations of sentences in California. Our guest Colby Lenz will focus on the  commutation application process and give us insight into recent grants made by Governor Brown. Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at 8:00pm. Call: (515) 604-9384. Code: 313882#

Colby Lenz is an advocate and organizer with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and has worked with people imprisoned in California women’s prisons for the past 15 years. This work includes release support and building leadership among currently and formerly imprisoned people and their families. Colby organizes with Survived & Punished, a national project to end the criminalization of survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Colby is also a PhD candidate in American Studies & Ethnicity at USC where she studies the rise of life without parole sentencing in California, and social movements against life and death sentencing.


What is a gubernatorial (governor’s) pardon?

Individuals who have been convicted of a crime in California may apply to the governor for a gubernatorial pardon. A gubernatorial pardon is an honor that may be granted to people who have demonstrated exemplary behavior following their conviction. A pardon will not be granted unless it has been earned. Historically, governors have granted very few pardons.


What is a commutation?

Prisoners currently serving a sentence for a conviction by the California courts can petition to have their sentence reduced or eliminated by applying for a commutation of sentence.