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Since We Last Spoke: California Bans Mandatory Life Sentences Without the Possibility of Parole for Juvenile

Updates to stories from the Pacific Standard archive.
Jerry Brown in Hollywood, California.

Jerry Brown in Hollywood, California.

In October of 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed a law banning mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for juveniles. The bill made California the 20th state to ban these sentences for juvenile offenders, and brought the Golden State in line with a 2012 Supreme Court decision that such sentences constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

In addition, as Kate Wheeling reported last year for, LWOP sentences are disproportionately administered: "Surveying over 1,500 juvenile lifers across the nation between October 2010 and August 2011, the [Sentencing] Project found that 97 percent of them were men and a full 60 percent were black."

The California bill ensures that anyone who was given a life sentence as a minor will become eligible for a youth parole hearing after 25 years behind bars. This will reportedly make about 300 inmates eligible for parole hearings.

A version of this story originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine.