By Julia Asby and Max Kennedy
LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón and Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-LA) have introduced state legislation to prevent offenses committed by minors from being considered as a strike in adult proceedings.
Currently, in California, anyone convicted of a felony with two or more strikes must be sentenced to at least 25-years-to-life.
If enacted, this new law would eliminate strikes committed by minors from consideration in later cases, and enable people to petition the court for resentencing if a juvenile strike was used to enhance their sentencing as an adult.
“This bill underscores the real purpose of the juvenile justice system: to rehabilitate young people. To use crimes committed while an adolescent’s brain is still developing to punish them as adults just does not make sense,” Gascón said.
He also argued that the bill would improve public safety as “over-criminalizing” youth increases recidivism and can be detrimental to communities.
Assemblymember Santiago, the lead author of AB 1127, also stressed that juvenile courts must focus on rehabilitation, not punishment.
“It makes absolutely no sense that a kid who can’t go to prom would have an action being taken into consideration for a strike once they are older,” he said. “We must reverse this backwards system so that we focus on rehabilitating, not incarcerating our communities, and so we can treat all Californians with fairness and dignity, especially people of color.”
At a press conference announcing the bill, both Gascón and Santiago emphasized that juveniles are not fully developed adults, and called on Dr. Minagawa, a supporter of the bill, to explain the science.
“The science is overwhelming in showing that minors are not fully developed adults,” said Dr. Minagawa. “To hold [minors] accountable years later for things they did when their brains were not well developed, when they are being influenced by pressures and forces that are not under their control, is just inherently unfair.”
Miguel Garcia, Advocacy Coordinator at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, was also featured in the press conference, and spoke about his own juvenile conviction.
He emphasized that despite an honorable discharge, an official certificate of rehabilitation and a court order dismissing his case, his own conviction could count as a strike were he to commit a crime in the future.
“The reality is juvenile strikes are over-punitive and unjust. That is why we need to eliminate juvenile strikes and create a just system focused on rehabilitation and not incarceration. That is why the ARC and I support AB 1127,” said Garcia.
“The essence of this bill really rest on science and equity,” Gascón stated. “Youth lack the maturity as an adult would.”
He added, “We also know that African-American and Latino kids are more likely to be impacted by the criminal justice system. They’re more likely to end up with a strike in their record. We know that poor, especially people of color, are more likely to be charged with strikes later on. A juvenile strike would increase the likelihood that they will be sent to prison for very long periods of time.”
He noted that this doesn’t impact public safety, but it does contribute to the destruction of the community.
Max Kennedy graduated from Harvard in 2016 with a degree in History. He is an intern with the San Francisco Public Defender and most recently worked as a digital organizer with Joe Biden for President.
Julia Asby is a third year student at UC Davis majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociocultural Anthropology. She is originally from Sacramento.
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