Bill to ease juvenile sentences goes to vote

SACRAMENTO, CA

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SB 399, introduced by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, aims to decrease the number of youth offenders sentenced to life without parole, according to spokesman Adam Keigwin.

The bill would allow juveniles sentenced to life in prison without parole to be reviewed after 10 years with a chance to receive a lesser sentence of 25 years to life with the possibility of parole, Keigwin said.

If the sentence was reduced, the prisoner would then be eligible for parole after those next 25 years, according to Keigwin.

The bill is important, Keigwin said, because it gives many of the juvenile convicts who may have been too young to realize the significance of their crimes another chance.

"Many of these cases are first time offenders," Keigwin said. "Often times it's a prank or robbery that went bad and they're the lookout, or they were just hanging out with the wrong crowd."

He added, "To say they have no possibility at redemption is not something Sen. Yee can support."

Yee introduced a similar bill in 2008, SB 999, that would have eliminated altogether the sentence of life without parole for a juvenile, according to Keigwin.

That bill required a two-thirds majority vote and did not pass. SB 399 requires a majority vote by the senate to pass.

Prior to the safety committee hearing, Yee will hold a news conference to discuss the bill.

The news conference begins at 9:30 a.m. at the State Capitol in Room 4074 in Sacramento. The safety committee will consider the bill in Room 4203.

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