CALIFORNIA—Senate Bill 439 was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on June 12. The bill prohibits the prosecution of children under the age of 12 on all charges except for murder and rape. The bill was proposed by Democratic Senators Ricardo Lara and Holly J. Mitchell.

“All we are saying is children under 12 deserve to be treated differently,” said Mitchell after the vote. “We are not denying that some children need some level of intervention. If we are going to end the cradle to prison pipeline, we have to start with our youngest Californians.”

According to The Sentencing Project website, as of 2015, the rate of Caucasian juveniles was 76 per 100,000, compared to African-American juveniles which was 711 per 100,000. The number of Hispanic juveniles is 180 per 100,000.

“Harsh penalties and growing jail populations have failed to reduce crime, but they have had a devastating impact on a generation of young black and Latino men,” Lara said. “Incarcerating someone for extra years without regard for the facts of their case does not serve the interest of justice or rehabilitation.”

“Mass incarceration is a massive moral failure and policy failure,” Mitchell said. “It’s a moral failure because we now know that it is injurious to families and to the economies of low-income communities. We all value, respect and want communities that are safe. This will help us move in a strategic, smart way to help an overburdened, high-cost, criminal justice system.”

Both Lara and Mitchell are in support of Senate Bill 1050 and Senate Bill 1393. Senate Bill 1050 would provide services and assistance for exonerated individuals after prison, including healthcare, work training and updating their records to reflect their wrongful convictions.

Senate Bill 1393, the Fair and Just Sentencing Reform Act, would get rid of automatic penalties that have contributed to the state’s large incarceration crisis and failed policies by returning discretion in sentencing of serious felonies to judges. SB 1393 would apply to mandatory five-year sentence enhancements.

Senate Bill 439, Senate Bill 1050 and Senate Bill 1393 are expected to go to the Committee on Appropriations. A hearing date has not yet been set.

Written By Madison McKeeson and Donald Roberts