Saturday, January 19, 2008

SENATOR YEE FIGHTS "LIFE" TERMS FOR "MINORS"

Laws "governing" children must/need reform, present day laws, sentencing children to life and life with NO chance of parole, is "state sanctioned" murder, I truly hope MORE people will wake up and get involved in these issues, BEFORE the next child could be YOURS. PLEASE, educate yourself, and GET INVOLVED and support this bill. Children DO deserve at the very least a "chance" to PROVE themselves, and the offer, of becoming a productive member of society. NOW, THEY ARE GIVEN "NO" CHANCES AT ALL.........THIS IS INHUMANE!!! The officials DO HAVE NOT THE RIGHT, to take "another" life, and call it JUSTIFIED!!!!!BUT, they continue to get away with it, under the present day laws........THIS MUST CHANGE, and that change must begin with you and me.
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http://www.insidebayarea.com/trivalleyherald/ci_7985605

Senator Yee fights life terms for minors
Watchdog advocates for juveniles denied the possibility of parole
By Steve Geissinger,
MEDIANEWS SACRAMENTO BUREAU
Article Last Updated: 01/16/2008 02:35:18 AM PST
SACRAMENTO —

Sara K. says that if she was freed from prison she would try to help children who find themselves in the same terrible circumstances she had to endure as a young teen. But Sara doesn't ever expect to be free. She is among 227 people in California serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed when they were ages 14 to 17. Sara's crime? At 16, she killed her 31-year-old pimp, who steered her into prostitution over three years. "I definitely know I deserve punishment," Sara, now 29, said in an interview taped by the group Human Rights Watch. "But I'm going to die here."

Human Rights Watch released a 100-page report, along with recordings of juveniles sentenced to life terms, at a Capitol news conference Monday. The event coincided with an announcement by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, that he will move forward with a bill, SB999, that no longer would allow anyone younger than 18 who commits murder with "special circumstances" to be sentenced to life without possibility of parole.

Sara's special circumstance was that she planned the killing.

Yee, a child psychologist, insists teens still in their formative years should not be barred from a chance for parole. "Adolescent impulse control, planning and critical thinking skills are still not yet fully developed," Yee said. "Children have an extraordinary capacity for rehabilitation." Yee's bill — which still would allow judges to sentence juveniles to 25 years to life, but with the possibility of parole — is backed by child advocacy groups.

"Sentencing children to life without parole means they will die in prison, without the possibility of a second chance at life," said Elizabeth Calvin, author of the report. "The public can be kept safe without locking children up forever for crimes committed when they were too young to vote, drink or even drive."

But victims rights groups oppose the measure, saying it would allow parole of those who committed murders with special circumstances that include gang, cop or hate killings. "When they do these violent, brutal crimes, I don't care what age they are," said Maggie Elvey of Crime Victims United. "They need to be held accountable and that means never getting out of prison." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the measure.

To reach the governor's desk, the bill would have to receive two-thirds majority votes in both houses of the Legislature because it alters Proposition 115, approved 18 years ago by voters. A two-thirds vote would require the support of a few Republican lawmakers, which may be difficult for Yee to obtain. Assembly minority leader Mike Villines, R-Clovis, voiced opposition to the bill after its introduction last year. Villines says Californians "should not have to live in fear that these criminals could someday be back out on the streets."

Nearly all the world's inmates who were juveniles sentenced to life terms are in the United States. Human Rights Watch said they total about 2,380 — with all but seven in the United States. The organization said most nations outlaw the practice. In the United States, the Supreme Court has barred the death penalty for minors. Nationally, New York, Colorado and the District of Columbia have prohibited life sentences for juveniles. Other states are considering changes such as those proposed by Yee, including Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington.

Sara holds out hope that someday maybe California will change its law and give her a second chance. "The way I think now is very different than the way I thought then," she said in the taped interview. "I do whatever I can to be a better person."

Human Rights Watch said statistics obtained from the California Department of Corrections showed nearly half of California youth sentenced to life without parole for involvement in a murder did not actually kill the victim. Many were convicted of felony murder, or for aiding and abetting the murder, because they acted as lookouts or were participating in another felony when the murder took place. The organization also said California has the worst record in the nation for racial disparity in the imposition of life without parole for juveniles. African-American youth are serving the sentence at a rate that is 18 times higher than the rate for white youth. The rate for Latino youth is five times higher.

The Human Rights Watch report can be found at http://hrw.org.reports/2008/us0108 _________________

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