Traveling to Sacramento to do legislative visits has never been something that I enjoy doing. To put it lightly, politics is not my cup of tea. However, I consider it a necessity to engage in this process if we hope to affect extreme sentencing laws that destroy lives and communities.
Yesterday was an exception to my typical aversion. A couple of advocacy colleagues and I were blessed to travel to Sacramento with five of the best human beings who manifest the transformation of darkness to light: Rebecca, whose sister was murdered, Ruett, whose 7-year-old son was murdered, Azim, who also had a son murdered, and Jimmy and Dom, who as youth were each sentenced to approximately 15 years in prison.
People who many think would be at extreme odds with each other, revealed an enviable kinship. It was magical to be present when these five incredible people shared their stories of responsibility, redemption, forgiveness and love. Using their testimonies to make the point that all children have potential for positive growth and inherent value that deserves preferential attention.
I had never seen politicians react so genuinely empathetic. I was surprised to see some legislators express a newfound understanding and agree with a philosophy that in the past seemed to be the antithesis of their beliefs.
This week, Senate Bill 260 passed unanimously out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Democrats and Republicans alike agreed that children who are sentenced as adults to serve extreme sentences in prison are not throw away kids and deserve an opportunity to prove that they can change for the better.
Next week, SB 260 will move to the Senate floor for a full vote. If passed into law, it will give youth the chance to go back before a judge and prove whether they have matured and deserve a chance at parole.
I don’t know if the magic that happened yesterday in Sacramento will happen again. I am not naive to believe that the political system will change over night. It is up to every person who believes in our youth to make sure that SB 260 becomes law. Let your Senator know that you want him or her to vote YES on SB 260.
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Office of Restorative Justice, Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Healing Justice Coalition