May 15, 2017: Senate okays plans to set age 12 as minimum for prosecution, reduce wasteful incarcerations

May 15, 2017

Reform measures part of Equity and Justice package

SACRAMENTO – State senators today approved setting age 12 as the minimum age for prosecution, part of a package of sweeping reforms of how California’s criminal justice system treats youths and young adults.

In addition, senators approved a companion measure that seeks a modest step toward enacting the bipartisan movement to end wasteful incarceration spending in favor of community reinvestments.

Both bills are part of a #EquityAndJustice package jointly authored by Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly J. Mitchell. The two Los Angeles-area Democrats unveiled the measures March 20 seeking major justice reforms that put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.

“All we are saying is children under12 deserve to be treated differently,” Mitchell said after the Senate approved Senate Bill 439 and SB 180. “We are not denying that some children need some level of intervention. If we are going to end the cradle to prison pipeline, we have to start with our youngest Californians.”

Her legislative partner agreed.

“Too many of California’s laws are out of date with what we now know about children’s development, and it is time for them to grow up,” Lara said. “By investing in children’s rehabilitation we are making communities safer.”

More than 75 groups support SB 180, including criminal justice advocates, public defenders, the Catholic Conference, Friends and a multitude of Jewish congregations

“Long prison sentences have been proven not to be successful at reducing the availability of drugs in our communities nor have they helped our communities become a safer place for us to live or raise our families,” said Sandra Johnson, Policy Fellow with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. “What enhancements do is overcrowd the punishment system with large amounts of black and brown people, and tear apart families for years.” 

Jim Lindburg, Legislative Director for the Friends Committee on Legislation, agreed.  “Today California took an important step toward dismantling the failed war on drugs, which has targeted poor communities of color,” he said “People need our help and support – not more punishment.” 

SBs 180 and 439 now go to the Assembly.

The other measures by Lara and Mitchell are:

SB 190 – Ending Juvenile Fees
Eliminates court fees on those found innocent of a crime. This bill enjoys broad support and no opposition.  Status: Now pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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.  This bill enjoys broad support and no opposition.  Status: Approved by the Senate on April 3; this measure now awaits action in the Assembly.

SB 393 – Sealing of Arrest Records
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: Approved by the Judiciary last month, SB 393 is now pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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: Now pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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: Now pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The two lawmakers explained the bills during a recent press conference. Watch that press conference HERE.

For more information, visit Sen. Mitchell’s Web site HERE or at the address below.

Sen. Mitchell is chair of the Senate Budget Committee. A member of the Legislature for more than six years,  she represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 30, which includes Culver City and much of Los Angeles. More at


Communications Director

Sen. Holly Mitchell, Senate District 30

Capitol Building, Room 5080

Sacramento, Calif. 95814

(916) 651-4030 office; 916 717-0513 cell


View Bill Fact Sheets

SB 180

SB 439