A California bill, widely supported by Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, which would have given juvenile offenders sentenced to life imprisonment a chance for early release under certain conditions, has failed in the Assembly.
SB9 failed by just five votes. The bill had been widely opposed by victim rights groups and Republicans. The bill would have given juvenile inmates who had been sentenced to life without parole, a chance at eventual release under certain conditions.
Under California's laws, juvenile offenders can be tried as adults. Juveniles cannot be sentenced to death, but can be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Under the bill however, a juvenile lifer who had been in prison for at least fifteen years, could be given a chance at eventual release if he or she had worked at rehabilitation, and could sufficiently prove his or her remorse. If the court found that the offender was sufficiently remorseful, and met all other conditions, then the sentence could be changed twenty-five years to life. After completion of the twenty-five years, the offender would be eligible to apply for parole.
Currently, there are about 295 juvenile inmates in California's prisons who are serving life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. These are the inmates who would benefit through a law like this.
Supporters of the bill provided plenty of evidence to show that a juvenile offender could have a chance at redemption and change, decades after the crime occurred. They presented the results of studies, which showed that adolescent brains are still in the process of development, holding out the possibility for a personality change in the future. However, Republicans and victims groups were opposed to the bill, because they believed it was unfair for victims families to relive the brutal crimes at parole hearings.