It is almost as rare as the proverbial "man bites dog" but apparently less headline worthy. A California legislator has introduced a bill to reduce the severity of punishment for convicted criminals, in this case those convicted of murder when they were juveniles and sentenced to life without parole. State Sen. Leland Yee has introduced legislation that would make these prisoners eligible for parole after 25 years (read SFChron coverage from the AP).
Senator Yee is to be applauded for opening the door to parole for those who kill while they are very young. The Senator holds a doctorate in Child Psychology believes that the possibility of rehabilitation should be left open (after 25 years in prison). It must be the first step of many to reduce the barriers to releasing life sentenced prisoners in California. Even twenty five years may be too long for those who killed as minors and those who kill as adults must be considered for release after a prison sentence substantial enough to reflect the gravity of the crime and with a prison record indicating real efforts to reform themselves and address the underlying sources of their violent behavior.
In much of the rest of the world, certainly those sectors Americans would consider living in, ten years is about the norm for murder. The fact that 25 to life for those who kill as minors is controversial tells you a lot about how out of whack our penal sensibilities are. Predictably Senator Yee's bill is being opposed by the District Attorney's Association whose relationship to California's imprisonment binge is roughly equivalent between McDonald's and the American waste line.