November 8, 2017

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a package of bills that will make California law more just and fair for our youth. Two of those bills – SB 394 and 395 – were co-sponsored by Children's Defense Fund-California.

Senate bills 394 and 395 are part of the #EquityandJustice package of bills authored by Senators Ricardo Lara and Holly Mitchell to promote prevention and rehabilitation and maintain family cohesion. SB 394 eliminates life without the possibility of parole sentences for youth under 18, allowing them to have a hearing after 25 years. SB 395 requires youth age 15 and younger to consult with legal counsel before waiving their Miranda rights during a police interrogation.

On Oct. 19, the senators hosted a community event in Los Angeles to celebrate the signing of the #EquityandJustice bills and to recognize organization and individuals who contributed to the success.

"College prep not prison prep is what we fundamentally believe," Sen. Mitchell said. "Our work is not done, I need you all to remember that. But today, we pause briefly to celebrate you, and we thank you all for your hard work."

Gloria Gonzalez, Youth Justice Coalition member, shared her story with the group.

"At age 11, I had my first encounter with school police. I was chased down, handcuffed and interrogated without a lawyer," she said. "These laws are personal for all of us.

Studies have shown that youth are more likely to confess to crimes they didn't commit and are less likely than adults to understand their Miranda Rights. Jerome Dixon is a prime example.

Dixon was 17 when he was held in a room, without legal counsel or a parent, for more than 24 hours being interrogated by police about a murder he said did not commit. Exhausted, scared and confused, during the 25th hour, Dixon told the police what they wanted to hear.

Sen. Lara said California is changing as it relates to juvenile justice and encouraged the group to continue their efforts.

"It is your stories that keep us motivated and keep us moving forward," he said. "We now get to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment.