BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     SB 261


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          Date of Hearing:  June 30, 2015


          Counsel:               Stella Choe








                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY


                                  Bill Quirk, Chair





          SB  
          261 (Hancock) - As Amended June 1, 2015





          SUMMARY:  Expands the youth offender parole process, a parole  
          process for persons sentenced to lengthy 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.   
          Specifically, this bill:  



          1)Provides that those with indeterminate sentences who are  
            eligible for a youth offender parole hearing on the effective  
            date of this bill shall have their hearing by July 1, 2017.








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          2)States that those with determinate sentences who are eligible  
            for a youth offender parole hearing on the effective date of  
            this bill shall have their hearing by July 1, 2021, and shall  
            have their consultation with the Board of Parole (BPH) before  
            July 1, 2017.



          EXISTING LAW: 





          1)Establishes a youth offender parole hearing which is a hearing  
            by BPH 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.  (Pen. Code,  3051.)

          2)Provides the following parole mechanism for a person who was  
            convicted of a controlling offense that was committed before  
            the person had attained 18 years of age:

             a)   If the controlling offense was a determinate sentence  
               the offender shall be eligible for release after 15 years;

             b)   If the controlling offense was a life term less than 25  
               years then the person is eligible for release after 20  
               years; and,

             c)   If the controlling offense was a life term of 25 years  
               to life then the person is eligible for release after 25  
               years.  (Pen. Code,  3051, subd. (b).)

          3)Sets a deadline of July 1, 2015, for BPH to complete all youth  
            offender parole hearings for individuals who become entitled  
            to have their parole suitability considered at a youth  
            offender parole hearing on the effective date of the statute  








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            that established youth offender parole hearings.  (Pen. Code,  
             3051, subd. (i).)

          4)Provides that in reviewing a prisoner's suitability for parole  
            in a youthful offender parole hearing, the BPH 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).)



          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown.





          COMMENTS:  



          1)Author's Statement:  According to the author, "Much like the  
            existing youth offender process, SB 261 holds young people  
            accountable and responsible for what they did. They must serve  
            a minimum of 15 to 25 years in prison depending on their  
            offense, and must demonstrate remorse, maturity, and  
            rehabilitation to be suitable for parole. 
            
            "This reflects science, law, and common sense. Recent  
            neurological research shows that cognitive brain development  
            continues well beyond age 18 and into early adulthood. For  
            boys and young men in particular, this process continues into  
            the mid-20s. The parts of the brain that are still developing  
            during this process affect judgment and decision-making, and  
            are highly relevant to criminal behavior and culpability.  
            Recent US Supreme Court cases including Roper v. Simmons,  
            Graham v. Florida, and Miller v. Alabama recognize the  
            neurological difference between youth and adults. The fact  








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            that youth are still developing makes them especially capable  
            of personal development and growth.

            "The State of California recognizes this as well. State law  
            provides youth with foster care services until age 21. It  
            extends Division of Juvenile Justice jurisdiction until age  
            23. It also provides special opportunities for youth in our  
            state prison system through age 25. 

            "To be clear: SB 261 is by no means a 'free ticket' for  
            release. There is no mandate to a reduced sentence or release  
            on parole, only the opportunity for a parole hearing after  
            serving at least 15 to 25 years in state prison. Even after  
            that period there is no guarantee for a grant of parole. The  
            Board still has to examine each inmate's suitability for  
            parole, the criteria for which this bill does not change. 

            "SB 261 will give young adults in our prisons hope and  
            incentive to improve their lives."

          2)Review of Case Law:  Juvenile Sentencing:  In 2010, the United  
            States Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to  
            sentence a youth who did not commit homicide to a sentence of  
            life without the possibility of parole (LWOP).  (Graham v.  
            Florida (2010) 130 S.Ct. 2011.)  The Court discussed the  
            fundamental differences between a juvenile and adult offender  
            and reasserted its earlier findings from Roper v. Simmons  
            (2005) 543 U.S. 551, that juveniles have lessened culpability  
            than adults due to those differences.  The Court stated that  
            "life without parole is an especially harsh punishment for a  
            juvenile," noting that a juvenile offender "will on average  
            serve more years and a greater percentage of his life in  
            prison than an adult offender."  (Graham, supra, 130 S.Ct. at  
            2016.)  However, the Court stressed that "while the Eighth  
            Amendment forbids a State from imposing a life without parole  
            sentence on a juvenile nonhomicide offender, it does not  
            require the State to release that offender during his natural  
            life.  Those who commit truly horrifying crimes as juveniles  
            may turn out to be irredeemable, and thus deserving of  








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            incarceration for the duration of their lives.  The Eighth  
            Amendment does not foreclose the possibility that persons  
            convicted of nonhomicide crimes committed before adulthood  
            will remain behind bars for life.  It does forbid States from  
            making the judgment at the outset that those offenders never  
            will be fit to reenter society."  (Id. at pg. 2031.)

          In 2012, the California Supreme Court ruled that sentencing a  
            juvenile offender for a non-homicide offense to a term of  
            years with a parole eligibility date that falls outside the  
            juvenile offender's natural life expectancy constitutes cruel  
            and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.   
            (People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal. 4th 262, 268.)  The Court  
            stated that "the state may not deprive [juveniles] at  
            sentencing of a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate their  
            rehabilitation and fitness to reenter society in the future."   
            (Ibid.)  Citing Graham, supra, the Court stated "the  
            sentencing court must consider all mitigating circumstances  
            attendant in the juvenile's crime and life, including but not  
            limited to his or her chronological age at the time of the  
            crime, whether the juvenile offender was a direct perpetrator  
            or an aider and abettor, and his or her physical and mental  
            development, so that it can impose a time when the juvenile  
            offender will be able to seek parole from the parole board."   
            (Id. at pp. 268-269.)  In Caballero, the defendant was  
            convicted of three counts of attempted murder and received a  
            sentence of 110-years-to-life.  Relying on the reasoning in  
            the Graham case, the Court found that while the juvenile did  
            not receive a sentence of LWOP, trial court's sentence  
            effectively deprives the defendant of any "realistic  
            opportunity to obtain release" from prison during his or her  
            expected lifetime, thus the sentence is a de facto LWOP  
            sentence and violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition  
            against cruel and unusual punishment.  (Id. at pg. 268.)

          The court in Caballero, supra, advised that "[d]efendants who  
            were sentenced for crimes they committed as juveniles who seek  
            to modify life without parole or equivalent de facto sentences  
            already imposed may file petitions for writs of habeas corpus  








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            in the trial court in order to allow the court to weigh the  
            mitigating evidence in determining the extent of incarceration  
            required before parole hearings."  (Id. at p. 269.)  The Court  
            did not provide a precise timeframe for setting these future  
            parole hearings, but stressed that "the sentence must not  
            violate the defendant's Eighth Amendment rights and must  
            provide [the defendant with] a 'meaningful opportunity to  
            obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and  
            rehabilitation' under Graham's mandate."  (Ibid.)

          While the court in Caballero pointed out that these inmates may  
            file petitions for writs of habeas corpus in the trial court,  
            the court also urged the Legislature to establish a parole  
            eligibility mechanism for an individual sentenced to a de  
            facto life term for crimes committed as a juvenile.  SB 260  
            (Hancock), Chapter 312, Statutes of 2013, established a parole  
            process for inmates who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms  
            for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18,  
            rather than requiring the inmate to file a writ of habeas  
            corpus and appear before the trial court for resentencing.  

          This bill seeks to expand those eligible for a youth offender  
            parole hearing to those whose committing offense occurred  
            before they reached the age of 23. The rationale, as expressed  
            by the author and supporters of this bill, is that research  
            shows that cognitive brain development continues well beyond  
            age 18 and into early adulthood.  The parts of the brain that  
            are still developing during this process affect judgment and  
            decision-making, and are highly relevant to criminal behavior  
            and culpability. (See Johnson, et al., Adolescent Maturity and  
            the Brain: The Promise and Pitfalls of Neuroscience Research  
            in Adolescent Health Policy, Journal of Adolescent Health  
            (Sept. 2009); National Institute of Mental Health, The Teen  
            Brain: Still Under Construction (2011).)

          3)Youth Offender Parole Hearings Status Update: According to the  
            State's most recent status report on measures being taken to  
            reduce the prison population pursuant to the three-judge  
            panel's February 10, 2014 order:








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            "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 May 31, 2015, the Board held 664 youth offender  
            hearings, resulting in 189 grants, 410 denials, 63  
            stipulations to unsuitability, and 2 split votes that required  
            referral to the full Board for further consideration. An  
            additional 318 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, 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." (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.)

          4)Argument in Support:  According to the Anti-Recidivism  
            Coalition (ARC), a sponsor of this bill, "In 2013, the  
            Governor signed SB 260 recognizing that young people are  
            different from adults and deserve a special consideration in  
            the parole process. This law codified California Penal Code  
            3051, providing individuals who were under the age of 18 at  
            the time of their crime and have served between 15 and 25  
            years in prison, the opportunity to demonstrate accountability  
            and rehabilitation to the parole board. This law was based on  
            the research and evidence that the brain is still developing  
            into early adulthood, particularly in the regions of the brain  
            affecting judgment, emotion regulation, decision-making, and  
            long-term consequences. While pointing out the vulnerabilities  
            that stem from this developmental stage, SB 260 also points  
            out the unique opportunity for personal growth and  
            rehabilitation. SB 261 makes this same recognition, while also  








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            noting that young adults are still developing neurologically  
            and emotionally past the age of 18.

          "With the passage of SB 260, motivation to focus on  
            rehabilitation is incentivized. The ARC communicates with over  
            500 inmates currently incarcerated and receives calls and  
            letters daily about the impact of this legislation. One inmate  
            wrote, 'I never thought this bill was real until I met you  
            guys. There are always rumors about different bills in here,  
            but no one ever believes it. This bill has given so many of us  
            hope for the first time since being here.' Another ARC Member,  
            currently home on SB 260, also explains the increased safety  
            caused by this bill, 'you don't understand-this bill spread  
            hope to people who had lost all. You had guys who were  
            dropping out of gangs and enrolling into school, because now  
            they had something to work toward.' SB 260 increases  
            motivation to focus on rehabilitation and gives individuals a  
            meaningful chance at parole.
            
            "The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation  
            (CDCR) estimates there are
            just over 16,000 people who were between 18-22 years old at  
            the time of their crimes and
            sentenced to prison terms of 15 years or more. This bill has  
            the potential to affect a
            much larger population, while continuing to move toward a  
            system of rehabilitation.
            There is no question that people who commit crimes should be  
            held accountable, but
            punishment should also reflect an individual's capacity for  
            personal growth and maturity.
            To do otherwise disregards the potential for young adults to  
            change and the dramatic
            physical and psychological differences between young people  
            and older adults." 

          5)Argument in Opposition:  According to the California District  
            Attorneys Association, "Two years ago, we opposed SB 260  
            (Chapter 312, Statutes of 2013), which established the youth  








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            offender parole process for individuals who were under 18  
            years of age at the time of their controlling offense.  We  
            renew our opposition to this bill, which seeks to expand that  
            process to anyone under 23 at the time of their offense.
            
            "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 like 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 mechanism that provides a defendant  
            serving a de facto life sentence without the possibility of  
            parole for nonhomicide 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."

          6)Prior Legislation:  

             a)   SB 260 (Hancock), Chapter 312, Statutes of 2013,  
               established a youth offender parole hearing which is a  
               hearing by BPH for the purpose of reviewing the parole  
               suitability of any prisoner who was under 18 years of age  
               at the time of his/her controlling offense.

             b)   SB 9 (Yee), Chapter 828, Statutes of 2012, authorizes a  
               prisoner who was under 18 years of age at the time of  
               committing an offense for which the prisoner was sentenced  
               to LWOP to submit a petition for recall and resentencing to  








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               the sentencing court, and to the prosecuting agency, as  
               specified.

             c)   SB 399 (Yee), of the 2009-10 Legislative Session, was  
               substantially similar to SB 9.  SB 399 failed passage on  
               Assembly Floor.  

             d)   SB 999 (Yee), of the 2007-08 Legislative Session, would  
               have eliminated the LWOP sentence thus making the sentence  
               for first-degree murder with special circumstances by a  
               defendant under 18 years of age 25-years-to-life.  SB 999  
               failed passage on Senate Floor.

             e)   SB 1223 (Kuehl), of the 2003-04 Legislative Session,  
               would have authorized a court to review 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 or attained the age of 25.  SB 1223 failed  
               passage in Assembly Appropriations Committee.





          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:





          Support


          


          Ant-Recidivism Coalition (Sponsor)










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          Human Rights Watch (Sponsor)


          Friends Committee on Legislation of California (Co-Sponsor)


          Youth Justice Coalition (Co-Sponsor)


          Alliance for Boys and Men of Color


          American Civil Liberties Union of California


          California Attorneys for Criminal Justice


          California Catholic Conference, Inc.


          Californians for Safety and Justice 
          California Public Defenders Association


          Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice


          Children's Defense Fund - California


          Drug Policy Alliance


          Everychild Foundation


          Islamic Shura Council of Southern California









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          Justice Not Jails 
          Kehillat Israel Synagogue


          Legal Services for Prisoners with Children


          Life Support Alliance


          Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership
          National Association of Social Workers - California Chapter


          National Center for Youth Law


          National Council on Crime and Delinquency


          Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the U.S. House of  
          Representatives


          PolicyLink


          Prison Law Office


          Project Kinship


          Public Counsel


          Revolutionary Releasing









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          Root & Rebound 


          San Francisco District Attorney's Office


          Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles 
          Youth ALIVE!


          Youth Law Center





          Opposition


          


          California District Attorneys' Association


          Crime Victims Action Alliance


          San Diego District Attorney's Office





          Analysis Prepared by:Stella Choe / PUB. S. / (916)  
          319-3744










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