By Bay City News Service
Some California inmates sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as juveniles can now petition for a reduced sentence under a law that took effect Jan. 2.
Senate Bill 9 was authored by state Sen. Leland Yee and signed by Gov. Jerry on Sept. 30. It allows people behind bars for juvenile crimes who have served 15 years of their sentence to petition for re-sentencing in the court in which they were convicted.
The inmates would have to meet certain criteria to be eligible, including having shown evidence of remorse and rehabilitation. Inmates whose crimes included torture or a victim who was a public safety official or other government employee are not eligible.
If the court grants a re-sentencing hearing, the victim's family members will be able to testify.
The new sentence the inmate would receive, if allowed, would be 25 years to life.
Adam Keigwin, a spokesman for Yee, D-San Francisco, said the law came out of the state senator's experience as a child psychologist working on adolescent development and brain maturation issues.
"Kids make decisions quite differently than adults," Keigwin said. "After their brains are fully matured, we should re-evaluate them and they should be given that second chance."
Keigwin noted that even after being re-sentenced, inmates will still have to go before a parole board that will decide whether they should eventually be released.
More than 300 California inmates are serving life sentences for crimes committed while they were younger than 18. The United States is the only country in the world that sentences juveniles to life in prison, according to Yee's office.
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