By Bay City News Service
Some California inmates sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as juveniles will be allowed to petition for a reduced sentence under a law authored by state Sen. Leland Yee that took effect on Tuesday.
Under Senate Bill 9, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Sept. 30, inmates behind bars for juvenile crimes who have served 15 years of their sentence would be able 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 would 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/San Mateo), 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, the inmates would still have to go before a parole board that would decide whether they should eventually be released.
More than 300 California inmates are currently serving life sentences for crimes committed while they were younger than 18, and the U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences juveniles to life in prison, according to Yee's office.
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