Memo on the Status of the Young Adult LWOP Bill Idea

Posted on February 25, 2017

March 1st 2017: Join us all in Sacramento during the Day of Empathy

March 1st 2017: Join us all in Sacramento during the Day of Empathy

To: People interested in the fate of young adults sentenced to LWOP
From: The LWOP Working Group, including among others:

Joel Aguilar, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, formerly incarcerated LWOP
Scott Budnick, Anti-Recidivism Coalition
Elizabeth Calvin, Human Rights Watch
Charisse Domingo, Silicon Valley De-Bug
Noelle Gilbert, Healing Dialogue and Action, survivor
Frankie Guzman, CA Juvenile Justice Initiative
Ryan Lo, Soros Justice Fellow, formerly incarcerated lifer
Alex Mallick, #cut50
Michael Mendoza, #cut50, formerly incarcerated lifer
Kim McGill, Youth Justice Coalition
Michelle Murray, CARES for Youth, Healing Dialogue and Action,
family member of person sentenced to JLWOP
Heidi Rummel, USC Gould School of Law, Post-Conviction Justice Project
Geri Silva, Fair Chance Project, Families United to End LWOP
Rourke Stacy, Pacific Juvenile Defender Center
Javier Stauring, Healing Dialogue and Action
Rebecca Weiker, Healing Dialogue and Action, survivor
Sara Kruzan, Healing Dialogue and Action, formerly incarcerated LWOP

California and the nation have made significant progress in challenging LWOP sentences for youth under 18. Now, many people are working on ways to help youth who were 18 through 24 at the time of a crime for which they got LWOP.

The LWOP Working Group is a coalition of organizations and individuals who are working to end the use of LWOP for young people in California. We are a diverse group of lawyers, family members of people serving LWOP, community-based organizers, murder victim family members, law professors, restorative and transformative justice workers, and people who have been incarcerated, including some who were sentenced to LWOP, but are now out of prison. Many of you have been leaders in this struggle. This memo is to let you know what is happening right now.

Based on the ideas and concerns raised by people serving LWOP and their families, we created three ideas for a possible bill to change the law. These bill ideas would give people serving young adult LWOP a chance to receive a parole-eligible sentence.

We submitted the ideas to the lawyers at the Capitol. These lawyers, called the “Legislative Counsel,” decide whether a bill is allowed to go forward under California law. Some laws cannot be changed by the Legislature in Sacramento. They can instead only be changed by a ballot measure that voters pass during an election. Other laws require a super-majority of the Legislature (2/3rds yes votes) to pass, instead of just the simple majority (50% + 1 yes votes) required for most laws. The decision about our three possible bills turns out to be very complicated, and it could make it more difficult to change the law. We are waiting for more information, and it is going to take more time to figure out how to go forward.

Where we are now: We are probably not going to have a bill on young adult LWOP this year. But we are continuing to work on this issue. We know – especially if you or your loved one is serving this horrible sentence – that this news may be discouraging. We know how long you have already waited for even a small sense of hope and justice.

But we also know that you will never give up, and we will fight with you until there is a real opportunity for people to come home. We are thinking strategically and creatively about next steps, including all our options for moving forward.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

• BUILD SUPPORT:
Coordinate with fellow community members, loved ones on the visiting lines at state prison, and people behind the walls, who are impacted by young adult LWOP, and who oppose this cruel sentence.

• CREATE MATERIALS: Compile stories of you and your loved one’s experiences.

• SPEAK UP: Contact your state senator and assembly member and let them know why you care about this issue.

• STAY TUNED: We will be in touch to work together on how we can build a more powerful movement for youth and community justice.