March 20, 2017: Breakthrough bills seeking equity and justice for juveniles, adults introduced

March 20, 2017

Measures authored by Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly Mitchell

SACRAMENTO – Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly J. Mitchell today introduced a package of bills to keep young children out of the juvenile justice system and fix longstanding inequity for youth and adults.

The two Los Angeles-area Senate leaders are joint authors on bills that together seek major justice reforms for juveniles and adults.

Their action kicks off a two-month celebration of the 50th anniversary of the landmark May 15, 1967, U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended Miranda rights to young people accused of crimes.

Four of the juvenile justice-related bills are fueled by research into children’s brain development that encourages shifting away from treating young people as adults. Instead, the measures put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.

“Young people learn differently from adults, they make decisions differently, and they need a different approach from law enforcement,” Sen. Lara said. “Expanding Miranda protections are critical because a child is more likely to give a false confession, and that hurts the child and the investigation.”

Mitchell agreed, praising the Berkeley Law Center for research, to be formally released soon, that includes data underscoring how administrative fees on families with youth in the juvenile system is often harmful, unlawful and costly.

“Sadly, too many poor kids and kids of color today are more likely to end up as victims of the juvenile justice system,” Mitchell said. “If one believes that our children will be tomorrow’s leaders then we must look through a child-development lense and provide the appropriate resources and policies to get them there.”

SB 190 – Juvenile Fees
Ends the harmful, unlawful and costly assessment and collection of administrative fees against families with youth in the juvenile justice system. Status: Hearing on March 21.

SB 394 – Juveniles Life Without the Possibility of Parole
Brings California into compliance with Montgomery v. Louisiana decision that juveniles cannot be sentenced to Life Without Parole. Status: Hearing on March 21.

SB 395 – Miranda Rights for Youth
Requires youth under the age of 18 consult with legal counsel before they waive their constitutional rights in interrogations with police. Status: Hearing on March 21.

SB 439 – Minimum Age Incarceration
This would exclude children age 11 and younger from juvenile court prosecution and would promote the rights, health and well-being of the child by curbing premature exposure to incarceration. Status: Awaiting assignment to a policy-review committee. Status: First hearing on April 4.

Four additional bills address changes long sought by law enforcement and community groups to the adult justice system:

SB 180 – Drug Sentence Enhancements
This reform measure is a modest step toward enacting the bipartisan movement to end wasteful incarceration spending in favor of community reinvestment. Status: First hearing on April 18.

SB 355 – No Court Fees for the Innocent
This would provide that only those who are convicted of a crime are required to reimburse the courts for legal counsel fees. Status: First hearing March 28.

SB393 – Sealing of arrests
Senate Bill 393 seals arrest records and remove barriers to employment for those arrested but not convicted of a crime. SB 393 is sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. Status: First hearing March 28.

SB 695 – Sex Offender Registry Reform
Creates a tiered system for sex offenders and will assist law enforcement to better assess risk and be more efficient in use of limited resources. SB 695 is supported by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Status: First hearing April 18.

The initial hearing on three of the bills begins at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 21, by Senate Public Safety Committee in Room 4203 of the State Capitol.

Sen. Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Sen. Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, is chair of the Senate Budget Committee.