Researchers at Stanford University (2009), the University of Alberta (2011), and the National Institute of Mental Health (2011), all confirm that the human prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, two areas of the brain that are responsible for reasoning and decision-making, are still developing well into a person's early to mid 20s.
Both the United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court have been presented with this evidence and concluded that young adults whose brains are still developing should not be sentenced the same as full-grown adults. Senator Loni Hancock, the shair of the Public Safety Committee, has authored a bill to bring California's law int line with these court rulings and the neuroscience behind them. This is Senate Bill 261 (SB261), and it is now being considered. If it passes, eligible inmates will be given an opportunity to have parole hearings after serving fifteen, twenty, or twenty five years, depending upon the length of their original prison sentence.
SB261 is not a "get out of jail free" card. Not all inmates will be eligible for consideration under the terms of the bill, only those who are serving time for an offense they committed before they were 23 years old. To qualify for release, eligible inmates will still have to serve a significant number of years in prison, be subjected to a rigorous psychological evaluation, and appear before a parole board. The board will then examine his/her prision record, noting whether the inmate has made sufficient rehabilitative efforts to address the factors in his/her life that led up to their conviction, and whether the person expresses remorse and has accepted responsibility. If all those requirements are met, the parole board may find individual suitable for parole.
To date, California's Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) has proven to be remarkably good at singling out the inmates who pose the least risk to the public. The recidivism rate for inmates released by the BPH is less than 1%, versus the recidivism rate of the rest of the inmate population upon completion of sentences, which is over 70%.
For all these reasons I support SB261 and I am asking you to support it too.
SB261 is well thought out: it does not apply to career criminals.
SB261 offers a possible second chance for inmates who work hard toward rehabilitation.
SB261 happens to apply to me.
If SB261 becomes law and I am found suitable by the BPH, I will be able to do the rest of my public service on parole. From that position I intend to continue writing books with rehabilitative themes and speak to audiences of at-risk youth, relaying my story, so that they won't make the same mistakes and bad decisions that I did. I can't do that without your help now.
Please support SB261. Send letters of support to your State Senators, Assemblymen, and the Governor of California. Urge your friends to do the same.
You can make a difference.