Aug. 31, 2018: Lawmakers vote to end sentencing of 14- and 15-year-olds in adult criminal court

August 31, 2018

#EquityAndJustice now goes to Gov. Brown

SACRAMENTO – California lawmakers have approved and sent to Gov. Brown Senate Bill 1391, which prohibits 14- and 15-year-olds from being tried as adults in criminal court and subsequently sent to adult prison.

SB 1391 is part of the #EquityAndJustice2018 package jointly authored by Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles).

The bill reverses laws passed in the 1990s that allowed for sentencing the youngest teens to the adult criminal justice system.

Youth sentenced in the juvenile system serve time in the Department of Juvenile Justice, where they receive age-appropriate rehabilitation that is not required in the adult system.

“In developing public policy it should be our goal to create systems based on science and results,” Mitchell said. “Research has verified for us that 14 and 15 year olds are not pint-sized adults, and we also understand the failing of our adult corrections facilities to address rehabilitation and reentry. To expect a child to thrive in that area would be foolhardy.”

Lara agreed.

“Sentencing children in the juvenile justice system means that even those who have committed serious crimes are not disposable, and we can reclaim these young lives lost to violence, abuse and trauma,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “SB 1391 recognizes that children are redeemable and should not be judged only by their worst act.”

SB 1391 is sponsored by Human Rights Watch, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, the National Center for Youth Law, Pacific Juvenile Defender Center, Silicon Valley De-Bug and the W. Haywood Burns Institute, and supported by more than 60 organizations.

The other bills in this year’s #EquityAndJustice2018 package are:

SB 439 – Minimum Age Incarceration
This juvenile justice-reform measure would exclude children age 11 and younger from juvenile court jurisdiction and would promote the rights, health and well-being of the child by curbing premature exposure to incarceration. Status: Awaiting action by the Senate.

SB 1050 – Services for exonerated people
This would provide services and support for exonerated people after prison, including healthcare, work training and updating exoneree records to reflect their wrongful convictions. Status: On Gov. Brown's desk.

SB 1393 – Five-Year Judicial Discretion
This proposal would return to prior statutory authority for judicial discretion on five-year enhancements for serious felony convictions. Status: Awaiting action by the Assembly.

Sen. Holly J. Mitchell is chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review 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. See a map of Mitchell’s district that includes a demographic breakdown of its residents and more HERE. Learn more at

Sen. Ricardo Lara is chair of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and was first elected to the Legislature in 2010. He represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 33, which includes Long Beach and the Southeast Los Angeles cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, South Gate, and much of Los Angeles. More at