The League’s support for Prop 57 is especially strong in regard to its juvenile justice provisions. Before March 2000, the decision to try a youth accused of committing a crime in adult court was in the hands of a judge. Proposition 21 of that year transferred that decision to the prosecutor, the district attorney. The negative effects of that change are well understood. Young people sentenced to adult court and incarceration return to prison at a much higher rate than those in the juvenile system. They are also left with an adult record that hinders job-finding, housing, and other basic needs. Unfortunately, those most often caught in this system were, and are, children of color.
Proposition 57 provides community protection, as those committing adult violent crime such as murder, armed robbery and certain violent offenses can continue to be tried in adult courts. But children as young as 14, and those committing nonviolent offenses, have no place in the adult criminal justice system, a system where they are denied both education and rehabilitation. This is a system set up to fail, one that adds to prison overcrowding and to the growing cost of the criminal justice system.
Proposition 57 also focuses on education and rehabilitation with respect to adult offenders. It allows nonviolent inmates to gather credits for an earlier release on parole by showing good behavior and participating in education, job training, and other rehabilitative activities. It allows parole consideration for people with nonviolent convictions who complete the full prison term for their primary offense. It does not automatically release anyone from prison.
Combined, the two programs will save millions of dollars—and thousands of productive lives.