Fair Sentencing for Youth



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News Archive

We won! Cal Supreme Court rules in favor of ballot measure moving forward!

Monday, June 6th, 2016

The Court ruled six to one in our favor, finding that the amendments were reasonably germane to the original measure. Hooray!!! Congratulations everyone! You can read the opinion here. With the great number of signatures gathered, it is likely nothing will stop us between now and November. (By the end of June we will get the official word as to whether we gathered enough signatures. But we are confident we submitted enough to qualify.) A reminder that there will be a joint legislative hearing on the ballot measure at the California State Capitol Wednesday, June 8th at 9:30. Please let us know if you are planning on being there so we can coordinate. Click here to send an email.  Speaking in support will be three set witnesses: Elizabeth Calvin from Human Rights Watch, Frankie Guzman from Nat’l Center for Youth Law, and Probation Chief Mary Butler.


Youth Miranda Bill Passes in the State Senate!

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

SB 1052 passed in the state Senate and now heads to the Assembly. Your letters & your calls made this happen. Please help with the next step and a new letter.Click here for an easy sample letter you can use!

Two minutes. REALLY. That’s all it takes to move California closer to just treatment of our children and youth

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

An important bill will be voted on the week of May 31st. Help by making a single (easy) call. Did you think children and youth have the same constitutional rights as adults? Apparently not in California, where youth can give up their rights without really understanding them. Police officer to 10-year-old: “You have the right to remain silent. Do you understand what means?” Boy: “Yes, sir. It means I have the right to remain calm.” Yep, a CA appellate court found a 10-year-old could make a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of his constitutional rights.

We are trying to change that, and we have a bill to do it. You can read about SB 1052 here: http://fairsentencingforyouth.org/take-action/

Do you live in California? Take 2 minutes (really, just 2) and call your Senator. It is very powerful for a Senator to hear from his or her constituents.
1. Find your senator here: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/
2. Call his or her Sacramento office.
3. You can say something like this:
Hello, I am a constituent and am calling to support a bill.
It is Senate Bill 1052 by Senator Lara.
Would you please let the Senator know I called to urge a yes vote next week on SB 1052?
If the person on the phone asks why you support the bill or if you wish to make a statement, (usually they do not ask this) keep it short and simple. You can say something like:
This bill is fair for youth. We should make sure young people understand their rights.

More than 1 Million Signatures!

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

We did it! Congratulations to everyone who helped get more than one million signatures to put the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act on the November 2016 ballot. Grassroots efforts across the state pushed the petitions across the finish line by securing over 160,000 signatures. We could not have hit our goal without the volunteer effort and the help of people from all over the state.

The petitions were delivered to county registrars who will start the verification process. We’ll hear by the end of June whether the initiative has officially qualified. If all goes well, soon we can focus on passing it.

If passed, youth as young as 14 who are accused of crimes would have increased access to education and rehabilitative services. It would make judges, not prosecutors the decision-makers about young people’s lives. In addition, the initiative offers provisions intended to incentivize rehabilitation for adults in prison, including allowing increases in sentence credits for people who demonstrate good behavior and engage in rehabilitative programs. Read the text of the Act here. Learn more here.

If you haven’t committed to collect four signatures, you’re missing a chance to be a part of changing California law. You’re also helping those who want to defeat this effort.

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

If passed, this act would give credit for work in prison, reducing sentences, & prosecutors would never again be able to file youth cases in adult court.  Click here to have petitions sent to you. Don’t fail to act because you think the little you can do doesn’t matter. The opposite is true. We will win only with one signature at a time. (List “Fair Sentencing” as the organization when you complete the form requesting petitions.)

The initiative is big! It would make rehabilitation a priority for criminal justice. It would allow prisoners who are in education, treatment, and rehabilitation programs to work off some of their sentence. It would mean judges, not prosecutors decide whether a youth stays in juvenile court and gets rehabilitation services, or goes to the adult system.

­­­­­­Read the text of the proposed law here.

Do Something Small & Help Create Big Change.

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Justice Ballot Initiative: Can you commit to getting just four signatures? California has the chance to make big changes to its criminal justice system with an initiative that would be voted on by the people in November. But if we don’t get enough signatures, it won’t be on the ballot. There are just six weeks left to get the signatures we need, and we’re behind. Please step up and help out! You might think the little you can do won’t matter. The opposite is true.

If passed, the Safety and Rehabilitation Act would:
1. Make judges, not prosecutors, the ones who decide whether a youth stays in juvenile court and gets services, or goes to the adult system; 2. Increase parole chances for prisoners with non-violent offenses; and 3. Make it possible for anyone in prison to work off time or get credit on a prison sentence by participating in education, treatment, and rehabilitation programs. Help make it happen!

April 5th join the CARES Call and learn about Youth Offender Parole

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

This next Tuesday we are pleased to present on the CARES for Youth telephone meeting for families and friends of youth sentenced to adult prison: Attorney and Professor Beth Caldwell speaking on Youth Offender Parole.  Join this call and learn how yo help your loved one.

Beth Caldwell is an Associate Professor at Southwestern Law School where she teaches legal writing and trial skills. She oversees the school’s Youth Offender Parole Clinic, which provides pro bono representation in Youth Offender Parole hearings. Professor Caldwell previously worked as a public defender and as the Director of Youth Development at Venice Community Housing Corporation. Her research focuses on juvenile justice and immigration issues.

Professor Caldwell will explain how your loved ones can be helped by letters of support to the parole board, and how to prepare for the pre-parole psychological evaluation. She will also answer questions about SB 260 and SB 261. Everyone  is welcome!  TUESDAY, APRIL 5TH, 8PM: JUST CALL TO JOIN!   CALL: (641) 715-3670  Code: 817682#

Justice ballot measure hit hard by DA lawsuit…But not knocked out! Appeal to Supreme Court will happen immediately.

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

On 2/24/16  Judge Chang of the Sacramento Superior Court granted the California District Attorneys Association’s writ to turn back a ballot measure about juvenile and adult criminal justice. The decision will be immediately appealed to the California Supreme Court. The lower court held that the AG abused her discretion by allowing amendments, holding that they were not reasonably germane to the original measure. The judge concluded that the original measure was about juvenile justice and the revised version is about the adult criminal justice system. The court also held that proponents could not submit substantive amendments after the close of the public comment period, notwithstanding the five-day period specifically permitted in the statute. Lawyers for the community groups and others supporting the measure strongly disagree with the lower court’s analysis, and look to he Supreme Court to overturn the decision. Read a newspaper article here.

Learn the nuts ‘n bolts of Youth Offender Parole SB 260 & SB 261!! February 16 at 8pm

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Here’s your chance to learn how Youth Offender Parole (SB 260 & SB 261) works! Two lawyers will join the CARES call, describe the laws and then answer your questions Tuesday night, February 16, 2016 at 8pm. JUST CALL TO JOIN!  Call: (641) 715-3670  Code: 817682# Everyone  is welcome!

Join us to welcome our speakers: ATTORNEYS  KRISTEN BELL and LYNN WU.  Youth Offender Parole now applies to people who were age 14 through 22 at the time of their crimes. On this week’s CARES call we’ll hear from two attorneys who have been involved with the implementation of these laws, taught workshops in prison, and are currently members of the team drafting the new guide.


What is Youth Offender Parole?
Who is eligible?
When does SB 261 start?
When are hearings held?
Who is excluded? 
And much, much more…
Plus, a question and answer session


Kristen Bell is a Soros Justice Fellow with the Post-Conviction Justice Project at the University of Southern California.  As an attorney, she researches how youth offender parole hearings are working across the state, advocates for progressive regulations, and works on habeas corpus petitions to appeal parole denials under SB 260 and 261.  She also works with a coalition of advocates to help educate prisoners about the youth offender parole law.  Kristen is a recent graduate of Stanford Law School, and prior to law school she obtained her PhD in philosophy with a focus on mercy and criminal justice.

Lynn Wu is a Staff Attorney and Juvenile Justice Policy Advocate at the Prison Law Office.  She provides technical assistance to multidisciplinary stakeholder groups to improve outcomes for justice-involved youth, with a particular focus on girls and young women, sexually exploited youth, LGBTQ youth, and young people of color.  Lynn also advocates on behalf of life prisoners seeking parole, including those who committed their crimes before turning 18, and works with a coalition working to eliminate the treatment of young people as adults. Lynn earned her J.D. and M.P.P. from the University of California, Berkeley, her M.A.T. from the Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco.



Join the CARES call November 3rd at 8pm: Learn about SB 260 & 261 from an experienced attorney

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Everyone is welcome on Tuesday, November 3rd at 8:00pm for the CARES Family & Friends call when we welcome our guest, attorney Debbie Page. She will speak on “Understanding Youth Offender Parole.” JUST CALL TO JOIN! Call: (805) 399-1000  Code: 817682#  Ms. Page is a former criminal defense attorney and law professor who eventually found her calling and life’s purpose in representing lifers, which she has done exclusively since 2010. An alum of USC, she is proud of her reputation as “an attorney who really cares.” Tuesday night she will speak about her experience as a parole attorney, share her knowledge about Youth Offender Parole hearings, and answer your questions.