California bill would exclude juvenile crimes from Three Strikes law
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California bill would exclude juvenile crimes from Three Strikes law

California Assembly Member Miguel Santiago and the Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón unveiled Assembly Bill 1127 on Friday, which would exclude juvenile crimes from applying under the California Three Strikes law once the person reaches adulthood.

California’s Three Strikes sentencing law mandates that an individual who has been convicted of three serious or violent felonies receive a sentence of 25 years to life. In juvenile court, a juvenile strike is treated differently than an adult strike. If an individual is convicted for an adult strike, however, the prior juvenile strike, if committed by a juvenile age 16 and older, is applied as an adult strike. Counting certain felonies committed by juveniles as a strike during an adult criminal proceeding often results in harsher punishments and lengthier sentences. If prior juvenile strikes count as second strikes during adult criminal proceedings, underlying sentences may be doubled. If it counts as a third strike, a life sentence may be given.

Assembly Bill 1127 allows for an individual who had a juvenile strike counted during an adult felony conviction to petition for resentencing if the individual is currently incarcerated.

In the announcement, District Attorney Gascón acknowledged that juveniles’ brains are still developing and often their decisions are more likely to be driven by impulsive behavior or their peers.

“To use crimes committed while an adolescent’s brain is still developing to punish them as adults just does not make sense,” District Attorney Gascón said. “When we put our energy toward rehabilitating young people, we improve community safety by reducing recidivism.”

Santiago and Gascón noted the bill’s potential to aid in the overall reduction of mass incarcerations in California, observing that juvenile strikes in adult criminal proceedings serve to greatly extend prison times later in life. “We must reverse this backwards system so that we focus on rehabilitating, not incarcerating our communities, so we can treat all Californians with fairness and dignity, especially people of color,” Santiago said.