California Must Reform Its Gang Sentencing Laws

Race, clothing, neighborhood—these are some ways police determine gang membership. Such an approach criminalizes innocent people and conduct. Even when individuals are truly gang-affiliated, however, law enforcement’s predominant strategy to control gang activity does not address the root of the problem. In response to rising crime rates in the 1980s, California legislators instituted “gang enhancements” as a sentencing mechanism to punish and deter gang violence. The statute (known as the … [Read more...]

Misdirected Juvenile Justice Consensus Creates Backwards Policy

California has experienced a huge decrease in juvenile crime. Over the last 35 years,arrests of youth ages 15-17 fell from 195,300 to 64,500, arrests of ages 12-14 fell from 77,500 to 21,200, and arrests of youth under 12 fell from 14,000 to 1,200 (see figure below). When changes in population are factored in, rates of arrest fell by 73 percentamong high schoolers, 79 percent among middle-schoolers, and 94 percent among grade schoolers. These massive declines suggest revolutionary changes … [Read more...]

What Can Reforming Solitary Confinement Teach Us About Reducing Mass Incarceration?

Although it would have been hard to believe even several years ago, reform of solitary confinement is starting to look inevitable. For decades, a small movement of the incarcerated and their families, advocates, medical and mental health professionals, and forward-thinking corrections leaders labored against solitary confinement with only rare, incremental, and quiet success. Compare that to the last few years: two of the largest prison systems in the country (California and New York) announced … [Read more...]

California Rightly Revisits Its Tough-on-Youth-Crime Stance

alifornia long led the world in juvenile injustice. Just five years ago, when there were only seven people outside the U.S. serving life prison terms with no possibility of parole for crimes they had committed before they became adults, California had more than 200. They were locked up with no hope for eventual release largely because of cruel and costly laws adopted in a frenzy of anti-crime sentiment in the 1980s and 1990s. Rising gang crime fueled fears that juveniles had somehow become … [Read more...]

The Juvenile Correction System in America

View image | gettyimages.com he state of the juvenile correction system in America is dreadfully lacking in effectiveness and is increasing in population year-over-year. The US has the highest youth incarceration rate in the world with 336 juvenile incarcerations per 100,000 youth – nearly five times as many as the second highest country. Only 12% of America’s youth is incarcerated after committing violent crimes. Most commit misdemeanors land them in residential facilities. New York in … [Read more...]

California Inmate Convicted As Minor Resentenced Under New Law

youth offender who was serving life without parole has been resentenced under a California law that allows those tried as minors to request a resentencing hearing. Edel Gonzalez is the first to be granted a hearing under SB 9, introduced by state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) and signed into law in 2012. With a new sentence of 25 years to life in prison, Gonzales is now eligible to apply for parole in less than three years. "Young people have an incredible capacity for … [Read more...]

Better Outcomes for Juveniles — Maybe

Monday evening, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 260 into law, making it possible for prisoners who received extreme sentences as juveniles to have their sentences reviewed and perhaps reduced after serving ten years. The news brought happy tears to my eyes. Three years ago, I was in the courtroom when Tedi Snyder was sentenced 32-years-to-life following an incident in which no one was killed and for which Tedi was never convicted of being the shooter. The crime occurred months after this … [Read more...]

California Moving Away From State Youth Facilities

A new interactive graphic provides a county-by-county look at California’s shift away from juvenile confinement at state institutions to community-based programs. The graphic, created by the non-profit Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice’s California Sentencing Institute, allows readers to examine the rates, costs and other factors related to juvenile confinement for each individual California county. In addition, the graphic provides filters such as gender, race and offense, and … [Read more...]

Juvenile Justice Act Needs Overhaul

The landscape in juvenile justice has changed a lot since 1992, but the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which provides critical federal funding to states to comply with a set of core requirements designed to protect children and meet their unique needs, has essentially not been updated in more than 20 years. Reauthorization is sorely needed to overhaul the law so that it meets the most pressing issues in juvenile justice today, and acts as a catalyst for significant … [Read more...]

Addressing Girls’ Health Needs at Juvenile Detention Centers

Latrice lifts the sleeve of her gray sweatshirt to reveal small, dark lines — scars from slicing her forearm over and over to drown out pain from years of sexual abuse. She says she was an alcoholic, dropped out of school in the eighth grade and got pregnant at 16. Now 18, she is in Los Angeles County's juvenile justice system because she violated probation. Latrice says she has been locked up more than 20 times in four years. Petite and talkative, she has attention deficit hyperactivity … [Read more...]