BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                             Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair
                            2015 - 2016  Regular  Session

          SB 261 (Hancock) - Youth offender parole hearings
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          |Version: March 24, 2015         |Policy Vote: PUB. S. 5 - 2      |
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          |Urgency: No                     |Mandate: No                     |
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          |Hearing Date: May 11, 2015      |Consultant: Jolie Onodera       |
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          This bill meets the criteria for referral to the Suspense File.

          Summary:  SB 261 would expand the youth offender parole process  
          to include persons who committed their crimes before attaining  
          the age of 23, as specified. This bill requires the Board of  
          Parole Hearings (BPH) to complete all parole hearings for  
          eligible individuals as of the effective date of this measure by  
          July 1, 2017.

            Immediately eligible caseload  :  Major one-time costs to the  
            BPH of $4.6 million (General Fund) to complete risk  
            assessments and conduct parole hearings by July 1, 2017, for  
            800 inmates estimated to be eligible upon the bill's effective  
            Future caseload  :  Significant future annual costs, likely in  
            the hundreds of thousands of dollars or greater (General  


          SB 261 (Hancock)                                       Page 1 of  
            Fund), to conduct hearings for inmates as they become  
            eligible. The magnitude of costs would be dependent upon the  
            rate at which BPH conducts hearings, as there is no timeframe  
            mandated for prospectively eligible inmates. The CDCR  
            estimates an additional 5,600 inmates would be added to the  
            BPH's hearing calendar over the next several years. An  
            additional 3,000 inmates are estimated to be within the BPH's  
            hearing cycle currently and would be eligible to request to  
            advance their next hearing date, as specified.
            Regulations  :  One-time costs of about $100,000 to review and  
            re-write regulations. 
            Reduced writs  :  Potential offset to an unknown degree by state  
            trial court savings as a result of an accompanying reduction  
            in writs of Habeas Corpus, by which inmates challenge  
            convictions and/or sentences. 
            Future incarceration savings  :  Potential cost savings of $0.2  
            to $0.5 million (General Fund) for every 20 to 50 inmates  
            released or sentences reduced. Savings would grow as the years  
            they otherwise would have served compound. Over ten years, the  
            savings could increase to $2 to $5 million assuming the  
            inmates would have served ten additional years. Minor  
            offsetting increase in parole costs.

          Background:  Existing law creates the youth offender parole hearing, which  
          is administered by the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) for the  
          purpose of reviewing the parole suitability of any inmate who  
          was under 18 years of age at the time of his or her controlling  
          offense. (Penal Code (PC)  3051.) 
          Existing law provides that the timing for the youth offender  
          parole hearing is dependent 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, the person is eligible for  
          release after 20 years; and, if the controlling offense was 25  
          years or more, the person is eligible for release after 25  
          years. (PC  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. (PC  3051  

          According to the CDCR April 2015 Status and Benchmark Report to  


          SB 261 (Hancock)                                       Page 2 of  
          the Three-Judge Court:
            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 grant 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.

          Proposed Law:  
            This bill would extend the existing parole process for persons  
          sentenced to prison for crimes committed before attaining 18  
          years of age, to persons sentenced to prison for crimes  
          committed before attaining 23 years of age, as specified. 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. 

          Legislation:  SB 260 (Hancock) Chapter 312/2013 established a  
          parole process for persons sentenced to prison for crimes  
          committed before attaining 18 years of age.
          AB 1276 (Bloom) Chapter 590/2014 requires the CDCR to conduct a  
          youth offender Institutional Classification Committee (ICC)  
          review at reception to provide special classification  
          consideration for every youth offender.

          SB 9 (Yee) Chapter 828/2012 authorizes a person who was under 18  
          years of age at the time of committing an offense for which the  


          SB 261 (Hancock)                                       Page 3 of  
          person was sentenced to LWOP to submit a petition for recall and  
          re-sentencing to the sentencing court, as specified.

          SB 1223 (Kuehl) 2004 would have authorized a court to review and  
          suspend or reduce the sentence of a person convicted as a minor  
          in adult criminal court and sentenced to state prison after the  
          person has either served 10 years in prison or attained the age  
          of 25. This bill was held on the Suspense File of the Assembly  
          Appropriations Committee.

          Comments:  The CDCR has indicated one-time near term costs of  
          approximately $4.6 million assuming approximately 800 inmates  
          would immediately be eligible for a parole hearing. The CDCR  
          estimates that an additional 5,600 inmates would be added to the  
          BPH's hearing calendar over the next several years. The BPH  
          would be required to give these inmates a consultation about  
          five years prior to their initial parole hearing. An additional  
          3,000 inmates are estimated to already be within the BPH's  
          hearing cycle and would be eligible to request to advance their  
          next hearing date based on the requirement for the BPH to give  
          "great weight" to the factors of youth, their growth and  
          maturity since the crime.
          Components of the one-time $4.6 million cost for the 800  
          immediately eligible inmates:

           Risk Assessments  : The BPH would need to complete 800  
          comprehensive risk assessments for the backlog of hearings over  
          the course of eight months at an estimated cost of $2.7 million.  

           Interpreters  :  Minor costs of less than $40,000 to provide this  
          service for a small percentage of the 800 hearings.
          Transcripts  :  At an average cost of $570 per hearing, and  
          assuming 10 percent of the 800 cases will be postponed or  
          continued, transcription services would cost approximately  
          State-appointed counsel  :  The BPH is required to provide each  
          inmate with counsel. State-appointed attorneys receive $400 per  


          SB 261 (Hancock)                                       Page 4 of  
          hearing. For 800 hearings, the cost would be $320,000.
          Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners  :  To handle an additional  
          100 hearings per month, it is estimated the BPH would require  
          additional resources at a cost of about $1.1 million.
          Attorney III  : To dedicate one staff, for six months, to review  
          each possible youth offender scheduled for a hearing for  
          eligibility as a youth offender and to respond to inmate counsel  
          on individual cases in which the inmate's status as a youth  
          offender is in question. In many cases, determining eligibility  
          requires the BPH to obtain birth certificates and additional  
          court sentencing documents. The BPH would, therefore, request  
          funding for six months to handle this additional workload at a  
          cost of $85,000.

          CDCR indicates this bill would create substantial ongoing  
          workload due to the increase in consultations the BPH would be  
          required to conduct and additional hearings added to the BPH  
          hearing calendar in the future as a result. Other ongoing costs  
          would include increases in processing inmate petitions to  
          advance hearing dates, conducting administrative reviews to  
          advance hearing dates, and correctional counselor duties for  
          parole hearings. Finally, the BPH and CDCR indicate the need to  
          modify existing automation systems to process offenders under  
          the provisions of this bill. While the total costs could not be  
          quantified at the time of this analysis, they would likely be  

          The costs of this measure would be offset in whole or in part by  
          potentially significant future costs savings to the extent a  
          number of offenders are granted parole and released as a result  
          of this measure, resulting in reduced incarceration costs that  
          otherwise would have been incurred under existing law.

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