National Center for Youth Law

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1,000,000 Signatures Submitted for California Ballot Initiative

With more than one million signatures in hand, advocates for children and youth are optimistic the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act will qualify for inclusion on the November 2016 ballot. If approved by voters, California’s law will shift in favor of rehabilitation for its youngest citizens charged with crimes.

Dozens of California organizations that work for the wellbeing of children have championed the measure, helping to draft it and gather signatures. National Center for Youth Law Attorney Frankie Guzman is among the initiative’s authors. The initiative would bring much needed reforms to the state’s juvenile and criminal justice systems.

If passed, the initiative would increase the likelihood that youth as young as 14 years old who are accused of crimes would have access to education and rehabilitative services. Under existing law, in many cases prosecutors alone make the decision to try youth as adults in criminal court, where they face adult prison sentences, exposure to violence, and little access to treatment and services. The initiative would put that decision in the hands of judges. Supporters of the act believe it recognizes important developmental differences between youth and adults who are charged with crimes.

In addition, the initiative offers provisions intended to incentivize rehabilitation for adults in prison by allowing parole for prisoners with non-violent offenses who prove they are rehabilitated, and eliminating restrictions on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s ability to award credit to people in prison who demonstrate good behavior and engage in rehabilitative programs.

Governor Brown is a proponent of the initiative, and sees it as an essential element for the reduction of the state’s prison population.

A legal challenge to the measure by the California District Attorneys Association is pending before the State Supreme Court, but many following the case believe the initiative’s proponents will prevail, as described by the Los Angeles Times, “California Supreme Court seems likely to allow parole ballot measure to move ahead”.

585,407 valid signatures are needed to secure a place on the November ballot. Over the next few weeks, county voter registrars will assess the validity of the over 1,011,157 submitted in favor of this measure. The Supreme Court’s opinion will be announced no later than the first week of August.

For more information: Contact Frankie Guzman at fguzman@youthlaw.org

 

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