Monday, May 11, 2009

Second Chance

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.

1 comment:

loveheals said...

Yes, this is a start. But does anyone in this state (including our lawmakers) understand that possibility of parole means life in prison without parole? Mr. Lee and the rest of the legislators I encourage you to really understand and research how things in this state work. The Parole Board arbitrarily denies parole and does so against California law and court rulings. Children can definitely be rehabilitated but this will not work if you put them in a state prison with hardened criminals and guards who cannot tell the difference between an adult and child offender and they get mixed up, shaken up and lost in this system. This is a step but we must make it work and not just write laws that make us feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. If you really believe what you are saying then MAKE SURE that you see your vision through and MAKE SURE that these kids have a shot to make it because if anyone can they can!