BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                             Senator Loni Hancock, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 

          Bill No:    SB 261        Hearing Date:    April 28, 2015    
          |Author:    |Hancock                                              |
          |Version:   |March 24, 2015                                       |
          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:    |Yes              |
          |Consultant:|MK                                                   |
          |           |                                                     |

                      Subject:  Youth Offender Parole Hearings

          Source:   Human Rights Watch
                    Anti-Recidivism Coalition
                    Youth Justice Coalition
          Prior Legislation:SB 260 (Hancock) - Chapter 312, Stats. 2013

          Support:  Newt Gingrich; San Francisco District Attorney's  
                    Office;  California Catholic Conference, Inc.; Ella  
                    Baker Center for Human Rights;  The California Public  
                    Defenders Association;  Life Support Alliance;  The  
                    Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership; Islamic  
                    Shura Council of Southern California; National  
                    Compadres Network; Public Counsel; Project Kinship;  
                    Youth Law Center; California Attorneys for Criminal  
                    Justice; Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice;  
                    Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety; Post-Conviction  
                    Justice Project; Office of Restorative Justice

          Opposition:California District Attorneys Association
          The purpose of this bill is to expand the youth offender parole  
          process, a parole process for persons sentenced to lengthy  


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          prison terms for crimes committed before attaining 18 years of  
          age, to include those who have committed their crimes before  
          attaining the age of 23.

          Existing law creates the youth offender parole hearing which is  
          a hearing by the Board of Parole Hearings for the purpose of  
          reviewing the parole suitability of any prisoner who was under  
          18 years of age at the time of his or her controlling offense.   
          (Penal Code  3051)

          Existing law provides that the timing for the youth offender  
          parole hearing depends on the sentence: if the controlling  
          offense was a determinate sentence the offender shall be  
          eligible for release after 15 years; if the controlling offense  
          was a life term less than 25 years then the person is eligible  
          for release after 20 years; and, if the controlling offense was  
          25 years or more then the person is eligible for release after  
          25 years.  (Penal Code  3051 (b).)

          Existing law provides that if the youth offender is found  
          suitable for parole at the youthful offender parole hearing then  
          the youth offender shall be released on parole. (Penal Code   
          3051 (e).)

          Existing law provides that in reviewing a prisoner's suitability  
          for parole in a youthful offender parole hearing, the Board of  
          Parole Hearings shall give great weight to the diminished  
          culpability of juveniles as compared to adults, the hallmark  
          features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased  
          maturity of the prisoner in accordance with relevant case law.  
          (Penal Code  4801 (c).)

          This bill expands those eligible for a youthful parole hearing  
          to those whose committing offense occurred before they reached  
          the age of 23. 

          This bill provides that those eligible for a youthful offender  
          parole hearing on the effective date of this bill shall have  
          their hearing by July 1, 2017.


          For the past eight years, this Committee has scrutinized  
          legislation referred to its jurisdiction for any potential  


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          impact on prison overcrowding.  Mindful of the United States  
          Supreme Court ruling and federal court orders relating to the  
          state's ability to provide a constitutional level of health care  
          to its inmate population and the related issue of prison  
          overcrowding, this Committee has applied its "ROCA" policy as a  
          content-neutral, provisional measure necessary to ensure that  
          the Legislature does not erode progress in reducing prison  

          On February 10, 2014, the federal court ordered California to  
          reduce its in-state adult institution population to 137.5% of  
          design capacity by February 28, 2016, as follows:   

                 143% of design bed capacity by June 30, 2014;
                 141.5% of design bed capacity by February 28, 2015; and,
                 137.5% of design bed capacity by February 28, 2016. 

          In February of this year the administration reported that as "of  
          February 11, 2015, 112,993 inmates were housed in the State's 34  
          adult institutions, which amounts to 136.6% of design bed  
          capacity, and 8,828 inmates were housed in out-of-state  
          facilities.  This current population is now below the  
          court-ordered reduction to 137.5% of design bed capacity."(  
          Defendants' February 2015 Status Report In Response To February  
          10, 2014 Order, 2:90-cv-00520 KJM DAD PC, 3-Judge Court, Coleman  
          v. Brown, Plata v. Brown (fn. omitted).

          While significant gains have been made in reducing the prison  
          population, the state now must stabilize these advances and  
          demonstrate to the federal court that California has in place  
          the "durable solution" to prison overcrowding "consistently  
          demanded" by the court.  (Opinion Re: Order Granting in Part and  
          Denying in Part Defendants' Request For Extension of December  
          31, 2013 Deadline, NO. 2:90-cv-0520 LKK DAD (PC), 3-Judge Court,  
          Coleman v. Brown, Plata v. Brown (2-10-14).  The Committee's  
          consideration of bills that may impact the prison population  
          therefore will be informed by the following questions:

              Whether a proposal erodes a measure which has contributed  
               to reducing the prison population;
              Whether a proposal addresses a major area of public safety  
               or criminal activity for which there is no other  
               reasonable, appropriate remedy;
              Whether a proposal addresses a crime which is directly  


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               dangerous to the physical safety of others for which there  
               is no other reasonably appropriate sanction; 
              Whether a proposal corrects a constitutional problem or  
               legislative drafting error; and
              Whether a proposal proposes penalties which are  
               proportionate, and cannot be achieved through any other  
               reasonably appropriate remedy.
          1. Need for This Bill
          According to the author:

               Science, law, and common sense support the  
               appropriateness of SB 260 youth offender parole  
               hearings for young adults between the age of 18 and  
               Recent scientific evidence on adolescent and young  
               adult development and neuroscience shows that certain  
               areas of the brain-particularly those affecting  
               judgment and decision-making - do not fully develop  
               until the early - to mid-20s.  Various studies by  
               researchers from Stanford University (2009),  
               University of Alberta (2011), and the National  
               Institute of Mental Health (2011) all confirm that the  
               process of brain development continues well beyond age  

               This research has been relied on by judges and  
               lawmakers.  The US and California Supreme Courts have  
               recognized in several recent opinions that adolescents  
               are still developing in ways relevant to their  
               culpability for criminal behavior and their special  
               capacity to turn their lives around.<1>  

               California already recognizes the uniqueness of young  
               adults in its Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).   
               DJJ is mandated to detain and provide services and  
               programming to some young adults until age 23.  The  

          <1> See: Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 569 (2005); Miller v.  
          Alabama, 567 US __ (2012); People v. Caballero, 55 Cal. 4th 262  
          (Cal. 2012); People v. Gutierrez, 58 Cal. 4th 1354 (Cal. 2014).


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               state has recognized early adulthood as a vulnerable  
               period in other arenas as well, for example, extending  
               foster care support beyond age 18 to age 21 in AB 12  
               (Beall, 2010).  As recently as 2013, the Legislature  
               passed AB 1276 (Bloom), which provided special  
               protections and opportunities for young adults through  
               age 22 entering prison. 
          2. Youthful Offender Parole Hearings
          On April 15, 2015 the State filed its most recent status report  
          in response to the Three-Judge panel.   The report set forth the  
          status of cases brought under SB 260 (Hancock) which created  
          youthful offender parole hearings:

               The State continues to implement Senate Bill 260  
               (2013), which allows inmates whose crimes were  
               committed as minors to appear before the Board of  
               Parole Hearings (the Board) to demonstrate their  
               suitability for release after serving at least fifteen  
               years of their sentence.  From January 1, 2014 through  
               March 31, 2015, the Board held 534 youth offender  
               hearings, resulting in 158 grants, 328 denials, 46  
               stipulations to unsuitability, and 2 split votes that  
               required referral to the full Board for further  
               consideration.  An additional 225 were scheduled  
               during this time period, but were waived, postponed,  
               continued, or cancelled.  All available inmates who  
               were immediately eligible for a hearing when the law  
               took effect on January 1, 2014, have had a hearing  
               date or have one scheduled on or before July 1, 2015,  
               as required by the terms of Senate Bill 260.  In  
               addition, nearly all youth offenders who received a  
               prior to January 1, 2014, have reached their minimum  
               eligible parole dates and have been processed for  
               release from their life term by the Board."  
               (Defendants' April 2015 Status Report In Response to  
               February 10, 2014 Order, 2:90-cv-00520 KJM DAD PC,  
               3-Judge Court, Coleman v. Brown, Plata v. Brown).

          3.  Crimes Committed Before The Offender Was 23
          This bill expands those eligible for a youthful parole hearing  
          to those whose committing offense occurred before they reached  


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          the age of 23.   

          Human Rights Watch, the co-sponsors of this bill, argues that:

               Neuro-scientific research finds that the process of  
               cognitive brain development continues into early  
               adulthood - well beyond the age 18. For boys and young  
               men especially this development process continues into  
               the mid-20s.  The still-developing areas of the brain,  
               particularly those that affect judgment and  
               decision-making, are highly relevant to criminal  
               behavior and culpability.

          Supporter National Center for Youth Law further argues this  
          point stating:

               The latest scientific evidence on adolescent  
               development supports justification for SB 261.   
               Research shows that certain areas of the brain, in  
               particularly those that affect judgment and  
               decision-making, do not fully develop until the early  
               20's. This is confirmed in studies by Stanford  
               University (2009), University of Alberta (2011), and  
               the National Institute of Mental Health (2011).  The  
               Fact that young adults are still developing means they  
               are uniquely situated for personal growth. SB 261  
               would continue the SB 260 trend towards reflecting the  
               latest scientific evidence on young adult development  
               by recognizing that young adults who were under the  
               age of 23 at the time of their crime have an  
               especially strong ability to grow.

          Former US Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich  
          echoes the argument that these offenders have a capacity for  
          growth both in his letter in support and in an editorial in the  
          Huffington Post on April 13, 2015.  He states:

               It's only fair to recognize the difference between  
               young- and full-grown adults in sentencing, just as we  
               draw a distinction between juveniles and adults.   
               People who commit offenses before their capacities are  
               fully formed deserve a second chance -- an opportunity  


          SB 261  (Hancock )                                        PageG  
               for a parole hearing if they mature, rehabilitate, and  
               pay serious restitution to their victims and to the  

               SB 261 is compassionate, fair, and backed up by the  
               latest scientific understanding of brain development.  
               But it is also by no means lenient.  To be eligible  
               for a hearing, the bill would require that a young  
               person must have served at least 15 years of his or  
               her sentence, and even longer for more serious crimes.  
               This is no small amount of time for young adult -- it  
               means spending a period of potentially more than half  
               their lives at sentencing behind bars.

               If young adults demonstrate real personal growth,  
               rehabilitation, and remorse, they should have the  
               opportunity to be eligible for a parole hearing after  
               spending a very long period of time in prison.  The  
               California legislature should pass SB 261 to give them  
               this opportunity -- and other states across the  
               country should look to it as a model for making the  
               criminal-justice system more fair, as well as more  

          The District of San Francisco has also recognized that these  
          young offenders are not quite juveniles but not adults.  In his  
          support of this bill he states:

               In the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, our  
               Alternative Sentencing Planner - the first of its kind  
               in the nation - takes a deep look at our cases to  
               understand the risks and needs of the individual  
               defendants.  One theme that has emerged in this work  
               is the difficulty of developing appropriate case  
               dispositions for young adults, who have one leg in  
               adolescence and one in adulthood.  These young men and  
               women are disproportionately represented in our adult  
               justice system - and often fare poorly in that system,  
               which lacks developmentally responsive interventions.   
               As a result, I and other local criminal justice  


          SB 261  (Hancock )                                        PageH  
               leaders have begun the essential work of developing a  
               Young Adult Court that will handle criminal cases for  
               individuals ages 18-25.  We recognize that in many  
               ways our current criminal system is not well suited to  
               this unique age group and that we must implement  
               reforms to improve outcomes for both the individuals  
               themselves and the safety of our communities.

          Even though arguably the neurological development continues to  
          age 25 or beyond, the author expands youthful parole hearings in  
          this bill to the age of 23 because that is the age in which a  
          person can remain in the Youth Authority in California.

          4. Opposition

          The California District Attorneys Association opposes this bill  

               The California Supreme Court ruled in People v.  
               Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262, 282 that a juvenile  
               offender sentenced to a de facto term of life  
               imprisonment must be afforded a "meaningful  
               opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated  
               maturity and rehabilitation."  The Court additionally  
               urged the Legislature to "enact legislation  
               establishing a parole eligibility mechanism that  
               provides a defendant serving a de facto life sentence  
               without possibility of parole for non-homicide crimes  
               that he or she committed as a juvenile with the  
               opportunity to obtain release on a showing of  
               rehabilitation and maturity."  

               The key phrase in that opinion is "committed as a  
               juvenile."  All of the major existing case law on  
               juveniles who receive long sentences (Miller v.  
               Alabama, 567 U.S. ____ (2012); Graham v. Florida, 560  
               U.S. ____ (2010); and Caballero itself) involves  
               individuals who were under 18 at the time of their  
               offense, and received a lengthy prison sentence.  We  
               are unaware of any case law under which courts have  
               considered someone a juvenile for an offense committed  
               after they turned 18, but before they reached 23 years  
               of age.


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               We believe that it is wholly inappropriate to expand  
               this expedited parole process to include individuals  
               who were adults when they committed their offenses.   
               This bill isn't aimed at instances where a juvenile  
               offender is charged as an adult - that was taken care  
               of in SB 260.  Instead, these are adults prosecuted in  
               adult court, for very serious offenses that result in  
               lengthy state prison commitments.

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