Fair Sentencing for Youth



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News Archive


Sunday, June 3rd, 2018
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.  


Thursday, May 24th, 2018

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

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

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#

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

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. 

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018


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!

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

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.

CARES Call! Tuesday April 17th at 8pm

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Writing a letter in support of a proposed new law or for someone who is preparing for a parole board hearing can be daunting. This Tuesday, you will get tips and tools making letter writing easy and your words effective. Once you start, you will find yourself empowered to be more engaged with your community and loved ones.

Join the CARES Call! Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 8 p.m. Call: (515) 604-9384Code: 313882#

Our speaker this week is CARES for Youth’s own Dennis Flynn. He has been a school administrator and teacher, and also has spent a lot of time reading and writing letters in support of a commutation of sentence for his daughter, Kelly, and has written many letters for bills being considered in Sacramento.


By the end of the call you will have the tools needed to write a strong letter demonstrating your support for a family member or friend’s release from prison or a bill that would change law.  Then on May 1styou will be ready for CARES Call guest Colby Lenz, who will discuss gubernatorial pardons and commutations.

Help Stop California from treating 14 and 15-year-olds as adults.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Hear from Daniel about why this is important. THEN, STAND UP FOR YOUTH. Read about SB 1391 hereThen, take two minutes and print and sign a letter of support. Click here for letters you can use. Believe us: Letters really make an impact.

No one thinks a 14 or 15-year-old is an adult, right? Wrong. California does.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018
 In this state a 14 or 15-year-old can be sent to adult court, tried as an adult, and sentenced to adult prison terms, including life in prison. TAKE TWO MINUTES TO HELP END THIS PRACTICE WITH A LETTER. They can’t drive, buy a lottery ticket, go to an R-rated movie, purchase a beer or cigarettes. Yet, if they commit a crime, they can be treated just like an adult and lose the chance for rehabilitation in the juvenile system. It’s wrong to give up on children, and it is time for the law to be changed. A new bill would end this practice. But it needs your help if it is going to become law.
Read about the bill hereThen, take two minutes and print and sign a letter of support. Click here for letters you can use. Believe us: Letters really make an impact.
A 14 or 15-year-old is #NotAnAdult. #PassSB1391.
Prison sentences are #NotRightforaChild. #PassSB1391.
Our youth deserve #CareNotCages. #PassSB1391.


Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Donate to the CARES Holiday Project 2017: Gifts for murder victim family members.

Joy and happiness fill our lives during the holidays, but for some, it can be especially tough who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Please join CARES in raising money to provide gifts to murder victim families during the holiday season. The 5th Annual CARES Holiday Project is a chance to give to families who have suffered the unimaginable.

Please consider donating any amount (no amount is too small). We truly appreciate your generosity!

This project is a reminder that compassion and connection can overcome so many barriers. Every year dozens of families receive these gifts and are incredibly grateful for the kind gesture. They are especially moved that the people giving are family and friends of those in prison, and people in prison themselves.

We cannot do this without your help, we invite you to support our community of healing friends and family this holiday season.

Send your donation to:
HRW CARES Victim Holiday Gifts
11500 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste. 540
Los Angeles, CA 90064.

Please make checks out to either Elizabeth Calvin, or Human Rights Watch (Human Rights Watch if you want it to be a nonprofit donation) with the memo line: “CARES Victim Family Gifts.” Please indicate if you would like a tax-deductible receipt.

Thank you for your continued support!