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CA Bill Gives Youthful Offenders a Second Chance

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By Kamika Dunlap on June 16, 2010 3:35 PM

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to abolish the sentence of life without parole for youthful offenders in nonhomicide cases has prompted California lawmakers to look at more reforms needed in juvenile sentencing.

The state has about 250 lifers who as teenagers participated in crimes involving homicides. SB 399 is new legislation that could give them a second chance, the Associated Press reports.

SB 399 would give individuals sentenced as youths to return to their communities after serving at least 25 years and a thoughtful review to determine if they still pose a threat.

As previously discussed, the High Court recently recognized there are inherent differences between teenage and adult criminals.

The decision in the case of Graham v. Florida, will impact Terrance Graham as well as any other inmates convicted as youths who are currently serving life sentences for non-homicide crimes.

The Court found that laws in eight states are too harsh and violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment. The Supreme Court ruled that Graham's sentence was cruel and unusual punishment because it gave the young man no hope of gaining freedom.

The Court ruled that states must give youthful offenders the chance to prove they have been rehabilitated, thus could be candidates for release.

In California, young people serving life without parole cost the state $2.5 million each.

California lawmakers advocating for SB 399 say the legislation allows the state to revisit these sentences and account for the adult that teen has become.

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