Fair Sentencing for Youth



Governor Brown signs SB 395, protecting children in police custody!

This new law will protect children in police custody, ensuring that they’re not alone when making hard legal decisions, like whether to give up their rights and face police interrogation. Senate Bill 395 will mean that police cannot interrogate children 15 and under until a child has consulted with an attorney. Read the new law here. “Everyone has heard TV cops rattle off Miranda warnings, but in real life, youth don’t understand what those warnings mean,” Elizabeth Calvin of Human Rights Watch said. “They especially don’t understand what can happen to them once they give up those rights. This new law will make sure children aren’t alone when making a crucial, complex legal decision.”

Long-established law requires that when police take a person into custody they must advise them of their right to remain silent before their responses to police questioning can be used against them in court (“Miranda warnings”). Until now, children of any age could waive those rights before speaking with a lawyer – even before their parents knew they were in custody. Children, whose brains are still developing, are less able than adults to understand complex legal ideas, and the ramifications of submitting to questioning by police.

California had allowed a child of any age to be interrogated by the police with no provision for counsel or contact with parents. Children have been allowed to give up their rights without understanding them. In a recent case, a 10-year-old questioned by police said that he thought that the right to remain silent meant the “right to remain calm.”

In its original form, the bill would similarly have applied to 16- and 17-year-olds, who also need this kind of help, but amendments limited the protections to people aged 15 and under. Senate Bill 395 is a step in the right direction, Human Rights Watch said, since California will ensure that young people 15 and under have the same constitutional protections as adults.

Human Rights Watch urged California’s state senate to pass this bill, joining many other children’s rights advocates and experts. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said that children’s brain development, specifically the area related to reasoning, continues to mature well into early adulthood. Children and adolescents “differ from adults in the way they behave, solve problems, and make decisions,” the academy stated in its letter in support of the bill.

The bill may also help prevent children from falsely confessing to crimes they did not commit, Human Rights Watch said. People under the age of 18 are much more likely than adults to confess to crimes they did not commit. A recent study of exonerations found that 42 percent of exonerated juveniles had falsely confessed, compared with 13 percent of adults.

Governor Brown signs into law SB 394, giving a chance for parole to youth under 18 sentenced to LWOP!

Governor Brown signed SB 394 (Lara), giving people who committed a crime under age 18 and were sentenced to life without parole the chance to earn parole, with a first opportunity for a hearing after 24 years of incarceration.  No other country outside the US imposes life without parole sentences on children. By signing SB 394 into law, Governor Brown removes this shameful exception in California. Read the bill here.

Many organizations urged passage of SB 394. Human Rights Watch published several reports, including in California, on the sentencing of youth under 18 to life without parole sentences. With this new law’s passage, 24 states and Washington DC do not use life without parole sentences for juveniles, Human Rights Watch said, and in the past four years, 14 states have passed bills banning life without parole sentences for youth.

CARES for Youth delivers thousands of supporter signatures to Governor Brown’s desk!

Dennis P. Flynn, who heads up CARES for Youth, was at the California capitol today, delivering to Governor Brown a petition with thousands of signatures in support of SB 395, SB 190 and SB 394. Dennis’ own daughter was sentenced to life in person when she was only 16 years old. Here he is handing to the Governor’s staff more than 340 pages with the names of people who signed in support of these important bills. Thank you CREDO Mobile for putting the petition out there!

Have you told the Governor you hope he will sign these and other important bills? It’s not too late, take action! Go here for quick and easy to use sample letters. 





Join the CARES Call on California Bills. What Passed, What Didn’t, What’s Next.

Join us to hear from KIM McGILL of the Youth Justice Coalition, Tuesday, September 19th, 2017 at 8pm

Everyone is welcome. Call: (515) 604-9384;  Code: 313882#  Kim McGill is a dynamic and powerful speaker joining us to describe important bills that have passed in the legislature and what ones need help getting the governor’s signature in order to become law.

Kim will describe what these bills will do if signed into law, and she’ll answer your questions! An organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition, she has years of experience fighting for change and passing bills. She also trains youth organizers about issues in the justice system, police and prison funding, the school to prison pipeline, and more. She works to create grassroots movements to accomplish change, end inequities in the justice system, and create alternatives to incarceration. If you haven’t heard any of Kim’s presentations, check out these videos of Kim in action: Watch and listen here as Kim describes the importance of activism and organizing, and here, where Kim testifies before the LA Board of Supervisors. She is a powerful advocate, and works tirelessly to make justice real in the United States.

PASSED! A bill giving parole hearings to youth serving life without parole!

Youth sentenced to die in prison will instead get the possibility of parole if Governor Brown signs SB 394 into law. Click here to urge the Governor to sign this important bill!

PASSED! Bill to Protect Children in Police Custody!

SB 395 passed in the California legislature on Sepetember 15th, and now needs the Governor’s signature. Click here to get a sample letter to send and learn more!

PASSED! Youth Offender Bill to Extend Eligiblity to Age 25

The California State Senate passed a bill that would extend Youth Offender Parole through age 25. The bill can be read here. It now heads to the Governor, and if he signs it, it will become law. The governor has 30 days within which to sign or veto the bill. Click here and get sample letter to ask the Governor to sign this bill. Some 3,000 people in prison are estimated to be eligible for the opportunities offered by Youth Offender Parole. To learn more about how Youth Offender Parole works and who is eligible under current law, go to our home page and request the guide.

Activist. Wife. Leader. Hear Taina Vargas-Edmond talk about how to protect the promise of Prop 57

CARES for Youth welcomes Taina Vargas-Edmond as our guest on the CARES Family and Friends Call. Join us! Tuesday, August 1st at 8 pm. All are welcome! Call: (515) 604-9384;  Code: 313882#

Ms. Vargas-Edmond co-leads Initiate Justice with her currently incarcerated husband, Richard, (at left) working to engage people in prison and their loved ones on Proposition 57 implementation. Tonight she will talk about Prop. 57 and what it means for people inside, their families, and communities. She’ll describe how you can get involved. There will be time for questions and answers, too.

Taina Vargas-Edmond is the Founder & Executive Director of Initiate Justice, a policy-driven organization created by and for people directly impacted by mass incarceration. Prior to founding Initiate Justice, she worked as the Statewide Advocacy Coordinator with Essie Justice Group, State Campaigner with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and as a Field Representative for the California State Assembly. She has a Master of Arts Degree in Diplomacy and International Relations from Seton Hall University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from California State University, Northridge.

Watch this short video and learn how to give comments on Prop 57 Regulations! There’s limited time to act!

Proposed Regulations for Prop 57 are out! There are just 45 days to comment.

Join us Tuesday July 18th at 8pm for a phone-based workshop to learn about the regs and how you can comment! We’ll hear from Heidi Rummel, USC School of Law Professor, and Rourke Stacy, Trainer, Los Angeles Public Defender. Join the call to get the very latest news on the Proposition 57 regulations and learn how you can weigh in. Under California law, the public must be allowed to give input on proposed regulations, but there are only 45 days to do so. THE TIME IS NOW. The 45 day period for public comments began July 14th and will end September 1st. If you have a loved one whose life might be affected by Prop 57, your opinion is important.

 Take advantage of this workshop and learn about what the proposed regulations say, and how to become a part of shaping them. Professor Rummel and Ms. Stacy will describe in detail the regulations, problems with how they’re written, and how you can give your thoughts to the administration.

The links below are materials for use the night of the call! If you can, be ready to view the slide presentation on your computer or phone (or print it) during the call.

Click to open:

Making Our Voices Heard: Slide presentation

AB 1308 Sample Support Letters

 Everyone is welcome. Just call in at 8:00pm! Call: (515) 604-9384 Code: 313882#