Focus: California life sentence without parole for juveniles

It’s time to “face the consequences of misguided policy.”

So says a media commentator in a recent article focused upon California law that provides for life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders in certain instances.

As that writer notes, in all such cases “someone was killed,” so there is no denying a convicted youth’s central involvement in a tragic and violent act.

However, it must also be noted, as has been the case in myriad behavioral and psychology-related studies, that young people — for purposes of this blog, minors who have not yet reached the age of 18 — are comparatively less able than adults to generally assess the risks and consequences of behavioral acts. That is why teen drivers pose a heightened danger on the roads. That is why youngsters often make inappropriate choices in school classrooms and on playing fields.

And that is certainly why hundreds of one-time California minors are presently serving no-parole life sentences in state prisons.

As noted in the above-cited article, reportedly about four of every five of such lifetime inmates “grew up with violence in their homes and communities.” Moreover, most were interacting with the criminal justice system for the first time.

Imagine making a mistake — even a horrific error — as a teenager and then spending as much as 70 years or even more behind bars atoning for it, eventually dying in a lockup.

The above commentator views that as being an exceptionally cruel and ill-advised policy.

She notes that 16 American states have abolished life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders, and suggests that California should now add to that number.

Contact Information