By Cheyenne Galloway
SACRAMENTO, CA – The California State Senate passed SB 94 Wednesday here at the State Capitol – the legislation would allow judges to review cases of those sentenced to “life-without-parole,” incarcerated a minimum of 25 years or committed their offense before June 5, 1990, according to the office of the bill’s author Dave Cortese (D-Santa Clara).
This new legislation grants the judges the authority to motion past cases to the Board of Parole Hearings for a re-evaluation, and the case is then given to the California governor for a final review before the inmate can be released on parole, said Cortese’s office.
In a statement, Cortese’s office explained how research demonstrates the positive correlation between older individuals and crime propensities, and people’s tendencies to commit crimes heightens in their 20s because the prefrontal cortex has not fully developed. Crime rates in individuals then plummet by 40, and with each sequential year, the office added.
“The recidivism for individuals who were sentenced to life without parole and then granted a commutation and released is zero percent,” so countless inmates are serving life for lesser crimes because of extreme sentencing laws instituted in recent years and the federal incarceration policies implemented during Reagan’s presidency and cemented in Clinton’s with the three strikes law, facilitating mass incarceration, according to a statement by Cortese’s office.
However, with SB 94, California aims to address its mass incarceration issue by considering mitigation factors such as the inmate’s history of domestic violence, childhood abuse, racial violence, and prejudice in the legal system.
“SB 94 would allow a small population of the oldest incarcerated Californians to petition a judge for a parole hearing. People who could demonstrate their complete rehabilitation after decades in prison would face three levels of intense evaluation: the judge, the Board of Parole Hearings, and the Governor,” said Sen. Cortese.
The bill’s author added, “Elder people who have turned their lives around after decades behind bars would have an opportunity to rejoin society instead of continuing to contribute to mass incarceration. It’s time to put these cases in line with California’s modern justice system.”
SB 94 is sponsored by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the Felony Murder Elimination Project, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Families United to End Life Without Parole, Center for Employment Opportunity, FAMM, and The Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition.