BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     SB 261  


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          Date of Hearing:   July 8, 2015


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                                 Jimmy Gomez, Chair


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


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          SUMMARY:


          This bill 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.  The  








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          bill requires that those with indeterminate sentences who are  
          eligible for a youth offender parole hearing have their hearing  
          by July 1, 2017, and those with determinate sentences who are  
          eligible for a youth offender parole hearing have their hearing  
          by July 1, 2021, and have their consultation with the Board of  
          Parole Hearings (BPH) before July 1, 2017.





          FISCAL EFFECT:


          1)Significant one-time costs to the BPH of $1.3 million (General  
            Fund) to complete risk assessments and conduct parole hearings  
            for 800 inmates estimated to be eligible upon the bill's  
            effective date.
          2)Significant ongoing annual costs, likely in the hundreds of  
            thousands of dollars or greater (General 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.
          3)One-time costs to BPH of about $100,000 to review and re-write  
            regulations. 
          4)Unknown state trial court savings as a result of an  
            accompanying reduction in writs of Habeas Corpus, by which  
            inmates challenge convictions and/or sentences. 
          5)Potential incarceration cost savings of $0.2 to $0.5 million  
            (General Fund) for every 20 to 50 inmates either released or  
            having their sentences reduced. Over ten years, the savings  
            could increase to $2 to $5 million assuming the inmates would  
            have served ten additional years.








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          6)Minor offsetting increase in parole costs.





          COMMENTS:


          1)Purpose.  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  
            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  








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            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)Background.  Current law establishes a process for youth  
            offender parole 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.    
            Current law 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 that established youth offender parole  
            hearings, SB 260 (Hancock), Chapter 312, Statutes of 2013.


            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.


          3)Argument in Support:  According to the Anti-Recidivism  
            Coalition (ARC), a sponsor of this bill, "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  








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            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."


          4)Argument in Opposition:  According to the California District  
            Attorneys Association, "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 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.'?   
            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."



          Analysis Prepared by:Pedro R. Reyes / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081













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