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Saturday, December 19, 2015

SB 260 AND 261; THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT

SB 260 AND 261; THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT
January, 2016 will herald the implementation of SB 261, which extends the factors of Youth Offender Parole Hearings (YOPH) to those lifers and long-serving determinate sentenced prisoners who were under 23 years old at the time of their crime. And while the factors of eligibility for the two bills are the same (under 23, not a sex crime, no conviction for additional serious/sex crime after the age of 23 and having served a minimum time, based on sentence) the timing of those coming to parole hearings under 261 will be substantially different..
Under the original YOPH bill, SB 260, the BPH had a total of 18 months to bring everyone affected by the bill to a parole hearing. This feat was accomplished, but not without fallout. Specifically, many determinate sentenced prisoners, coming to their first ever parole hearing in the last 6 months of the implementation period, were unprepared, both from a programming and rehabilitation standpoint, resulting is a dismal 5% grant rate for this cohort. And, because of the increased number of CRAs required, the FAD fell behind in preparing the evaluations, causing many prisoners to face their hearing with a CRA they had received mere days earlier.
Because of these findings, and because the number of prisoners potentially impacted under SB 261 is so large (an early estimate is perhaps 9,700) the legislature passed a companion bill to SB 261, SB 519, which allows for considerable alternation in the original time frame for hearings to take place. The two bills were passed out of the legislature together, signed by Gov. Brown on the same day and will go into effect in unison.
Instead of 18 months the BPH will now have two full years to bring all life term inmates who qualify for YOPH under the new age considerations to a hearing, either initial or subsequent. The hearings for lifers under 261 will begin in January, 2016 and must take place by the end of 2017. For those DSL inmates who qualify for 261, the board now has until the end of 2021 to bring those individuals to a parole hearing.
And while possibly waiting an additional 6 months in the case of lifers, or a few more years in the case of DSL inmates, might seem disappointing at first SB 261 still has the potential to cut years off a lifer’s sentence and for those DSL inmates serving impossibly long, virtual toe-tag sentences, 261 can be a real life-line. The additional time will also, it is anticipated, allow the FAD to complete and provide the required CRAs in a more timely fashion.
There are other, less impactful differences and nuances in the two bills as well as new procedures for implementing SB 261, all of which are too lengthy to detail in a short newsletter. Specifics of these details are being sent to prisons, for dissemination to the inmate population, and for the edification of correctional counselors. Whether or not the information actually reaches inmates is anyone’s guess.
The BPH has prepared a comprehensive 3 page explanation of these new developments, covering many areas of concern, including how notifications will be made, who will determine eligibility for inclusion in SB 261, how the new bill will affect PTA and other hearing scheduling matters. LSA will forward this document to any inmate who requests the report, along with explanatory notations on each section. More, in depth information will also be available in the December issue of CLN.
We can also provide an explanation of consultation hearings, which will be occurring for many inmates in the coming months in preparation for eventual consideration under YOPH. There is no charge for this information, however, stamps or SASE are helpful to our staff and budget.
Please send your requests to: LSA, PO BOX 277, Rancho Cordova, Ca. 95741 and mark the outer envelope : SB 261/519.


As previously announced, beginning in January CRAs will be done every 3 years instead of every 5 years and no Supplemental Risk Assessments will be done..

Parole For Young Lifers

SB 260 AND 261; THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT
January, 2016 will herald the implementation of SB 261, which extends the factors of Youth Offender Parole Hearings (YOPH) to those lifers and long-serving determinate sentenced prisoners who were under 23 years old at the time of their crime. And while the factors of eligibility for the two bills are the same (under 23, not a sex crime, no conviction for additional serious/sex crime after the age of 23 and having served a minimum time, based on sentence) the timing of those coming to parole hearings under 261 will be substantially different..
Under the original YOPH bill, SB 260, the BPH had a total of 18 months to bring everyone affected by the bill to a parole hearing. This feat was accomplished, but not without fallout. Specifically, many determinate sentenced prisoners, coming to their first ever parole hearing in the last 6 months of the implementation period, were unprepared, both from a programming and rehabilitation standpoint, resulting is a dismal 5% grant rate for this cohort. And, because of the increased number of CRAs required, the FAD fell behind in preparing the evaluations, causing many prisoners to face their hearing with a CRA they had received mere days earlier.
Because of these findings, and because the number of prisoners potentially impacted under SB 261 is so large (an early estimate is perhaps 9,700) the legislature passed a companion bill to SB 261, SB 519, which allows for considerable alternation in the original time frame for hearings to take place. The two bills were passed out of the legislature together, signed by Gov. Brown on the same day and will go into effect in unison.
Instead of 18 months the BPH will now have two full years to bring all life term inmates who qualify for YOPH under the new age considerations to a hearing, either initial or subsequent. The hearings for lifers under 261 will begin in January, 2016 and must take place by the end of 2017. For those DSL inmates who qualify for 261, the board now has until the end of 2021 to bring those individuals to a parole hearing.
And while possibly waiting an additional 6 months in the case of lifers, or a few more years in the case of DSL inmates, might seem disappointing at first SB 261 still has the potential to cut years off a lifer’s sentence and for those DSL inmates serving impossibly long, virtual toe-tag sentences, 261 can be a real life-line. The additional time will also, it is anticipated, allow the FAD to complete and provide the required CRAs in a more timely fashion.
There are other, less impactful differences and nuances in the two bills as well as new procedures for implementing SB 261, all of which are too lengthy to detail in a short newsletter. Specifics of these details are being sent to prisons, for dissemination to the inmate population, and for the edification of correctional counselors. Whether or not the information actually reaches inmates is anyone’s guess.
The BPH has prepared a comprehensive 3 page explanation of these new developments, covering many areas of concern, including how notifications will be made, who will determine eligibility for inclusion in SB 261, how the new bill will affect PTA and other hearing scheduling matters. LSA will forward this document to any inmate who requests the report, along with explanatory notations on each section. More, in depth information will also be available in the December issue of CLN.
We can also provide an explanation of consultation hearings, which will be occurring for many inmates in the coming months in preparation for eventual consideration under YOPH. There is no charge for this information, however, stamps or SASE are helpful to our staff and budget.
Please send your requests to: LSA, PO BOX 277, Rancho Cordova, Ca. 95741 and mark the outer envelope : SB 261/519.


As previously announced, beginning in January CRAs will be done every 3 years instead of every 5 years and no Supplemental Risk Assessments will be done..

No Child Under 18 Should Be Tried As An Adult

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/12/14/what-age-should-young-criminals-be-tried-as-adults/no-one-younger-than-18-should-be-tried-as-an-adult.
The Opinion Pages
No One Younger Than 18 Should Be Tried as an Adult
Carmen Daugherty is the policy director for the Campaign for Youth Justice, which is dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system.
Updated December 14, 2015, 10:40 AM

Laws that permit youth under the age of 18 to enter the adult criminal justice system represent a departure from the traditional understanding of juvenile justice — to serve the best interests of the child.
An overwhelming amount of research shows that the adult criminal justice system is ill equipped to meet the needs of youth offenders, from trial to incarceration and re-entry. Beyond what brain science reveals about adolescent development, experts contend that the adult criminal justice system does not deter repeat offenses by juveniles under 18.
Youth placed in the adult system had 34 percent more re-arrests, and often, at faster rates and more dangerous levels. Mental health needs go unmet in adult settings across the country and little training is offered to facility staff on working with the youngest offenders. Meanwhile, the juvenile justice system, more broadly, puts an emphasis on the rehabilitation, treatment, education and public safety of youth in its care. It is rare that you will find that kind of express mission — let alone a program focused on treatment and education — in state departments of corrections.
Young offenders are more likely to succeed on a personal level if they receive comprehensive services that support positive youth development. But in a broader sense, comprehensive juvenile justice is safer for society as a whole. Ninety-five percent of youth charged as adults return home by their 25th birthday: Don’t we want them better off than when they entered the system?
Yet nine states still place 17-year-olds in the adult system for any offense — including simple misdemeanors or traffic related offenses — building permanent adult records for juveniles before they are even out of high school. For North Carolina and New York, the age one goes into the adult system is 16.
Nearly every state uses a variety of legal processes to transfer youth to the adult system sometimes, either through judicial or prosecutorial discretion or through laws that prevent certain alleged offenses from being heard in juvenile or family courts.
But the federal government has released recommendations on best practices and approaches to reducing children's exposure to violence — including a recommendation to avoid prosecuting youth in adult courts that "ignore and diminish their capacity to grow."


Join Opinion on Facebook and follow updates on twitter.com/roomfordebate.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hundreds Of Juveniles Interrogated By Police In California

Boy's murder conviction sharpens debate on whether juveniles are fit to waive rights:
By Maura DolanRecent Columns

November 29, 2015, 2:00 a.m.

Joseph, 10, had just told police he shot his father while he slept. The father had threatened to remove smoke detectors from the home and burn the family in it, the boy related, and had beaten him and his stepmother.

A detective told Joseph he had the right to remain silent and asked whether Joseph understood that.

"That means I have the right to stay calm," Joseph replied.

After hearing more explanation from the detective, Joseph waived his rights and was later convicted of murder. He was one of hundreds of juveniles interrogated by police in California each year who waive legal rights that some experts say the youngsters do not understand.

"With many adolescents, the most important thing is what is going to happen to them in the next half hour," said University of Massachusetts emeritus medical professor Thomas Grisso. "Can they go home? Adults are much more likely to consider the longer-term consequences."

Joseph's case has sharpened a debate among courts over whether juveniles are savvy enough to waive their legal rights.

After a majority on the California Supreme Court declined last month to review Joseph's case, two dissenting justices asked the Legislature to consider establishing new rules or guidelines for the interrogation of juveniles. Other courts also have tackled the question in recent rulings: At what age are juveniles cognitively and emotionally capable of understanding the consequences of their actions in the criminal justice system?

Studies show that juveniles, particularly those under 13, cannot fully comprehend the implications of talking to police without lawyers. They are more likely than adults both to waive their rights and to confess to crimes they didn't commit. When they do falsely confess, it is often to protect others, according to experts in juvenile justice.

Some states have rules to protect juveniles during interrogations, but California decides whether waivers are valid on a case-by-case basis — and only when a verdict results in an appeal. The practice prompted three state high court justices — all with young children and appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown — to dissent when the court refused to take up Joseph's case.

"Consideration of special safeguards for young children need not await judicial action," Justice Goodwin Liu, joined by Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, wrote in a dissent. "Many states have found the issue worthy of legislative attention." Justice Leondra Kruger also wanted to review the case but did not sign Liu's dissent.

Liu noted that 613 kids under the age of 12 were arrested for felonies in 2011, the year Joseph killed his father. More than 500 minors in that age group were arrested for felonies in 2012, nearly 450 in 2013 and 281 in 2014, Liu said.

"The proper application of Miranda to children in Joseph's age range likely affects hundreds of cases each year, even though few such cases result in a trial and appeal," Liu wrote.

The issue already had been raised by other courts before Liu's dissent grabbed attention.

A San Francisco-based state appeals court recently condemned police tactics in the case of a 13-year-old found to have committed a lewd and lascivious act upon a child.

Justice J. Anthony Kline, writing for a three-judge panel, blamed detectives' "accusatory … dominating, unyielding and intimidating" interrogation for the boy's admission that he touched a 3-year-old in the vaginal area out of curiosity. The court noted that detectives lied to the boy — a practice permitted in the U.S. but not in several European countries — to extract an admission.

"The realization that children and adolescents are much more vulnerable to psychologically coercive interrogations and in other dealings with the police" is well-known, Kline wrote.

Kline's ruling cited research that found that juveniles were particularly susceptible to confessing to crimes they didn't commit. In a 2004 study of 125 proven false confessions, juveniles accounted for one-third of admissions. Another study of 340 exonerations found that 13% of the adults falsely confessed compared with 42% of the juveniles.

In yet another case of a juvenile confession, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in August overturned the murder conviction of Adrian Reyes, 15, for Derek Ochoa's slaying in a gang assault. The ruling hinged on the way the police interrogated the boy.

Riverside police traced a car at the crime scene to an older cousin of Reyes, who had just turned 15. Police questioned the high school freshman over two days without advising him of his rights and falsely told him he had been identified by a witness as the culprit, according to the court. Reyes also was given a polygraph, without any consent by an adult. The result of the test was not in the court records, the 9th Circuit said. Reyes was told he failed.

A detective asked him whether he was afraid of going to jail. Reyes said he was afraid of being locked up for 25 years.

Detective: "How many 15-year-olds do you know that go to jail for 25 years?"

Reyes: "None."

Detective: "OK, so why would you be any different?"

After confessing, Reyes asked the police not to tell his parents. He repeated the admission after being read his rights and received a 50-year sentence.

UC Irvine professor Elizabeth E. Cauffman, an expert in the development and treatment of anti-social behavior in adolescents, cited research that she said showed juveniles 15 and younger lack the cognitive ability to understand what happens at a trial.

"We are transferring kids to the adult court system and they are not competent to stand trial," she said.

Adolescents generally are cognitively mature at age 16, but lack emotional "self-regulation," she said. The brain is not fully developed until age 25. Studies show that by that age, people can control their impulses and tend to commit fewer crimes, she said.

Despite such research, Californians passed Proposition 21 in 2000, giving prosecutors wide authority to charge a juvenile in adult court. Public sentiment has since changed, according to polls, and the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down laws mandating life without parole for juveniles who kill.

"The pendulum is kind of swinging, with courts saying tough, hard punishments for very young kids don't make a lot of sense," said Barry Krisberg, a social scientist and expert in juvenile justice. "The legal world is trying to catch up to the brain science."

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said he would like Miranda rights to be eliminated and all interrogations videotaped. He called the brain research about adolescents' legal culpability "a bunch of hooey."

"I am reluctant to draw bright lines on age because people mature at different rates and people become street smart at different rates," Scheidegger said.

UC Berkeley law professor Franklin E. Zimring, on the other hand, said he favors a requirement that a parent's consent be obtained before a minor can be interrogated.

"Anybody who understands what goes on during a police interrogation asks for a lawyer and shuts up," Zimring said.

maura.dolan@latimes.com


Twitter: @mauradolan


http://www.latimes.com/local/crime/la-me-kids-confess-20151129-story.html

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Family Arrested (How To Survive The Incarceration of A Loved One)

Family Arrested
(How To Survive The Incarceration of A Loved One)
By Ann Edenfield
“Family Arrested” is a how-to manual for family and friends of inmates. On August 5, 1986, the Edenfield family changed drastically.
Ann was left penniless after the arrest, conviction and 15-year sentence of her husband. She begun a long
journey that millions are forced to step into.
She addresses the issues of finance, loneliness, community persecution and the many stigmas that label those left behind.
“Family Arrested” is a first-person account on what to expect when a family member or friend is faced with doing time in the federal prison system. Ann takes it step-by-step to answer some questions on how to go through
the arrest, bail, trial and sentencing. Then, she addresses the prison policies for visitation, sending mail and medical health issues.
“Family Arrested” also addresses the release of the inmate.
Many people are affected by the incarceration of one individual. Whether you are the accused facing prison,
the family left behind or the friend trying to understand the system, you will benefit from the ideas and helpful information found in this manual. If you want to understand more about how the system works, this is great starter book. I suggest that an inmate use this manual as a workbook. It would be beneficial for
inmates to pencil in the policy and procedures of their own facility and send their revised version out.
Also available in audio.
To order contact: Wings Ministry,
2270 B Wyoming NE #130,
Albuquerque, NM 87112
(505) 291-6412 or online at
www.WingsMinistry.org

Youth Parole Information

Since we’ve received many questions regarding this new term and what it means, we have included the definition as outlined in a new Administrative Directive from the BPH, issued recently. According to the BPH YPED is defined as (PC Section 2443) “the earliest date on which a youth offender is eligible for a parole consideration hearing, “and is set according to the following criteria: (1) if the controlling offense is a determinate term of any length, the YPED is the first day after the youth offender has completed 14 actual years of incarceration: (2) if the controlling offense is a life term of less than 25 years to life, the YPED is the first day after the youth offender has completed19 actual years of incarceration or (3) if the controlling offense is a life term of 25 years to life, the YPED is the first day after the youth offender has completed 24 actual years of incarceration.”
As to scheduling, PC Section 2444 notes that “Youth offenders shall be scheduled for their initial parole consideration hearing in the year following their UPED unless the youth offender is entitled to an earlier parole consideration hearing pursuant to any other provision of law.
Non-YOPH lifers or inmates enter the parole cycle about a year prior to their Minimum Eligible Parole Date (MEPD), so qualified youth offenders will enter the hearing cycle upon reaching their YPED or one year before their MEPD – whichever occurs first.
Inmates whose YPED occurs prior to their MEPD will enter the hearing cycle earlier than they would have otherwise based on their MEPD. Once qualified youth offenders pass their YPED, they may be released from prison prior to their current MEPD, if they are found suitable and pass both the Board’s decision review and Governor’s review processes.
Neither YPED nor MEPD is not a guarantee of a grant of parole but they can indicate when an inmate will enter the hearing cycle.

‘Toe Tag Parole' Some Juveniles Will Never Get Out!

Subject: [CaliforniaPrisonNews] ThinkProgress: Interviews the Award winning film makers of :Toe Tag Parole

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/07/29/3685194/toe-tag-parole/
--
‘Toe Tag Parole': What It’s Like To Live In Jail When You Know You Are Never Getting Out“It’s not better than
the death sentence because it is the death sentence,” said Kenneth Hartman, a maximum-security inmate
serving life without parole. “The outcome of the death penalty is death — it’s never being free again.”
So begins Toe Tag Parole: To Live And Die On Yard A, a new HBO documentary about 600 men who are
sentenced to life without parole and participate in an innovative rehabilitation program created by the

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in 2000. The film dives into the sentencing of
children to life without parole, who have to confront the ‘other death penalty.’ It follows Wilber Morales, who

received three life sentences plus five years at age 16 for a murder conviction and currently lives in a single cell

while he adjusts to prison culture. Viewers also meet Daniel Whitlow, who was locked up when he was 17 for a

murder conviction.
Although a 2012 Supreme Court ruling says that juveniles can no longer receive mandatory minimum

sentences with no chance of parole, the ruling was not retroactive. So thousands of inmates who were

sentenced as juveniles are still serving life sentences. As of early 2012, there were 301 juvenile “lifers” in California.
Edgar Gomez is one such lifer who was convicted at age 14. One day, while he was hanging out with a group of
friends, a member of the group shot and killed someone with a gang affiliation. Gomez did not pull the trigger, but because he was present during the killing, he was convicted of second degree murder. He was 22-years-old
when the documentary was filmed.
“You can’t help but to think about the decisions that you made in the past and this is what it’s costing you
now. Every day that I’m in my cell I have to live with that — what I could have done. What if that wouldn’t
have happened?” Gomez explains in the film. “You can let that destroy you and let all those thoughts
accumulate in yourself and just go wild like many of the prisoners have done….Why should you just give up on
a 14-year-old because he committed a horrifying crime?”
But the documentary also explores the unique facility where 600 lifers strive to turn their lives around. In the Progressive Programming Facility, also known as Yard A or the Honor Yard, inmates (including those sentenced as juveniles) are completely committed to “breaking the code of violence dominating prison life.” And as a
result, they have unique access to rehabilitative resources, such as anger management, art and music therapy, and peer group discussions. Prospective residents must have a clean behavior record and adhere to strict
requirements: random drug testing, racial integration, participation in a rehabilitative activity, and no gang
involvement.
ThinkProgress talked to Toe Tag Parole filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymonds about making their third prison
film for HBO and fifth criminal justice documentary.
How was this specific prison chosen?
Susan: When we read there a was huge increase in life sentences (1 in 9 prisoners), we started to research the subject. We discovered this yard at the CDCR and that California has the highest number of inmates serving
life (1 in 5). They had to do something with this huge population and so they devised this yard in 2000. We
thought for our purposes it was going to give us great access to men doing life. We shoot in video verite style, so we wanted to have access to as many lifers as possible, in a setting that was going to allow us to walk around and shoot. Alan: It gets into the whole philosophical human rights scenario. If you’re going to
condemn people to die in prison — life without the possibility of parole, the so-called other death penalty —

maybe you should think about how you should treat them and create yards where they can have a better life

than just warehousing them. The sentence is so extreme that we thought this yard would be an interesting

lens into America’s policy of extreme sentencing.
How were the inmates chosen?
Alan: The warden recommended (Hartman and) a couple others, but it was things we just happened upon.

Susan: We were interested in the juveniles who were sentenced to life without. Morales had just arrived so

that was a major coincidence. Alan: The whole juvenile life without parole is another subset of the story and

would make a good interview subject because Morales was just taking it all in. He had that great line about

the nightmare that doesn’t end. Edgar Gomez was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Edgar Gomez’s story also struck a chord with me.
Susan: That’s the nature of felony crimes. I don’t think the public understands the severity of the sentencing.

Alan: At 14 he’s clearly unable to stop what was going on. I think the whole thing of giving sentences, which

essentially means you’re going to spend your life in prison, to such young people is really a horrific miscarriage

of justice. All studies suggest that young men under the age of 18 are not able to always make the best

decision in difficult circumstances. Their brains aren’t fully formed. As they mature up to around age 25, when they become fully aware of things as their brain develops, they’re different people.
In general, how did the inmates perceive you?
Alan: Usually people think [inmates are] the ones that would create the problems when you film. But because

it’s such a closed out society, I think when they see filmmakers like us there — and also see that we’re not just there for an afternoon — I think they actually like it. They think that there’s some hope that we’ll bring some

news to the outside world of their plight. On this particular filming, we had no problems with the inmates. We had people lined up around the block wanting to be in the film.
How did you build their trust?
Susan: We had the ability to win over some guarded people. We were very happy to get into the veterans’
support group, and that took a couple of days for all the men to agree to let us film. That takes time, but you ask politely and they think about it. Alan: We do cinema verite documentaries — observational films. You
hope they let you film them in a natural, spontaneous way. Susan: That’s the value of showing up multiples
times.
Did you hear common themes or concerns, particularly among those sentenced as juveniles?
Susan: Well their complaints are about harsh sentences. One of the overriding themes that we found was they

believe life without is very cruel and at least should be known as the other death penalty. Alan: I think the

younger inmates on this yard are not subject to bullying or sexual advances that are common in other prison yards. I think they mainly were terminally depressed. California leads the nation in the inmate suicide rate.

When you get the life without parole sentence, (it can) make or break you — to get up every day and know
that nothing you do will ever make any difference on your getting out. We should also say the prison does not make it easy to visit.
In the documentary, viewers don’t hear the questions that inmates are answering. Why’d you go with that
approach?
Alan: Normally when we do interviews, the idea is to get people to talk and eliminate ourselves. We’re not
there as correspondents or personalities. We try to be as low key as possible. In the editing process, we try to take our questions out Susan: We want it to seem like it’s flowing like a conversation so that you are
experiencing it. We think it makes it a more personal film if you get to be up close and personal with this
person instead of filtered through us.
Did you encounter any challenges while filming?
Susan: Access to the prison was difficult but we persisted. Alan: California had shut down all filming in their prisons several years before we approached them. What they do is do it on a case-by-case basis. We were successful in convincing them to let us in because we were doing a good representation, and also we’re

Academy Award-winning filmmakers. Once we got in, it wasn’t easy because we had to work with a press
person from the CDCR and she had never worked on a documentary film. The prison is located in the Mojave

Desert so many days we were filming we had 100 degree temperatures. It was a hard location to film in.
My final question for you is: why did you choose to make a documentary on criminal justice?
Susan: You’re shining a light on a forgotten, secret world that America doesn’t know about. If we are going to have any reform of the criminal justice system, we have to shed some light on these places.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. You can watch Toe Tag Parole on August 3 on HBO.

Subject: [CaliforniaPrisonNews] ThinkProgress: Interviews the Award winning film makers of :Toe Tag Parole

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/07/29/3685194/toe-tag-parole/
--
‘Toe Tag Parole': What It’s Like To Live In Jail When You Know You Are Never Getting Out“It’s not better than

the death sentence because it is the death sentence,” said Kenneth Hartman, a maximum-security inmate

serving life without parole. “The outcome of the death penalty is death — it’s never being free again.”
So begins Toe Tag Parole: To Live And Die On Yard A, a new HBO documentary about 600 men who are

sentenced to life without parole and participate in an innovative rehabilitation program created by the

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in 2000. The film dives into the sentencing of

children to life without parole, who have to confront the ‘other death penalty.’ It follows Wilber Morales, who

received three life sentences plus five years at age 16 for a murder conviction and currently lives in a single cell

while he adjusts to prison culture. Viewers also meet Daniel Whitlow, who was locked up when he was 17 for a

murder conviction.
Although a 2012 Supreme Court ruling says that juveniles can no longer receive mandatory minimum

sentences with no chance of parole, the ruling was not retroactive. So thousands of inmates who were

sentenced as juveniles are still serving life sentences. As of early 2012, there were 301 juvenile “lifers” in

California.
Edgar Gomez is one such lifer who was convicted at age 14. One day, while he was hanging out with a group of

friends, a member of the group shot and killed someone with a gang affiliation. Gomez did not pull the trigger,

but because he was present during the killing, he was convicted of second degree murder. He was 22-years-old

when the documentary was filmed.
“You can’t help but to think about the decisions that you made in the past and this is what it’s costing you

now. Every day that I’m in my cell I have to live with that — what I could have done. What if that wouldn’t

have happened?” Gomez explains in the film. “You can let that destroy you and let all those thoughts

accumulate in yourself and just go wild like many of the prisoners have done….Why should you just give up on

a 14-year-old because he committed a horrifying crime?”
But the documentary also explores the unique facility where 600 lifers strive to turn their lives around. In the

Progressive Programming Facility, also known as Yard A or the Honor Yard, inmates (including those sentenced

as juveniles) are completely committed to “breaking the code of violence dominating prison life.” And as a

result, they have unique access to rehabilitative resources, such as anger management, art and music therapy,

and peer group discussions. Prospective residents must have a clean behavior record and adhere to strict

requirements: random drug testing, racial integration, participation in a rehabilitative activity, and no gang

involvement.
ThinkProgress talked to Toe Tag Parole filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymonds about making their third prison

film for HBO and fifth criminal justice documentary.
How was this specific prison chosen?
Susan: When we read there a was huge increase in life sentences (1 in 9 prisoners), we started to research the

subject. We discovered this yard at the CDCR and that California has the highest number of inmates serving

life (1 in 5). They had to do something with this huge population and so they devised this yard in 2000. We

thought for our purposes it was going to give us great access to men doing life. We shoot in video verite style,

so we wanted to have access to as many lifers as possible, in a setting that was going to allow us to walk

around and shoot. Alan: It gets into the whole philosophical human rights scenario. If you’re going to

condemn people to die in prison — life without the possibility of parole, the so-called other death penalty —

maybe you should think about how you should treat them and create yards where they can have a better life

than just warehousing them. The sentence is so extreme that we thought this yard would be an interesting

lens into America’s policy of extreme sentencing.
How were the inmates chosen?
Alan: The warden recommended (Hartman and) a couple others, but it was things we just happened upon.

Susan: We were interested in the juveniles who were sentenced to life without. Morales had just arrived so

that was a major coincidence. Alan: The whole juvenile life without parole is another subset of the story and

would make a good interview subject because Morales was just taking it all in. He had that great line about

the nightmare that doesn’t end. Edgar Gomez was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Edgar Gomez’s story also struck a chord with me.
Susan: That’s the nature of felony crimes. I don’t think the public understands the severity of the sentencing.

Alan: At 14 he’s clearly unable to stop what was going on. I think the whole thing of giving sentences, which

essentially means you’re going to spend your life in prison, to such young people is really a horrific miscarriage

of justice. All studies suggest that young men under the age of 18 are not able to always make the best

decision in difficult circumstances. Their brains aren’t fully formed. As they mature up to around age 25, when

they become fully aware of things as their brain develops, they’re different people.
In general, how did the inmates perceive you?
Alan: Usually people think [inmates are] the ones that would create the problems when you film. But because

it’s such a closed out society, I think when they see filmmakers like us there — and also see that we’re not just

there for an afternoon — I think they actually like it. They think that there’s some hope that we’ll bring some

news to the outside world of their plight. On this particular filming, we had no problems with the inmates. We

had people lined up around the block wanting to be in the film.
How did you build their trust?
Susan: We had the ability to win over some guarded people. We were very happy to get into the veterans’
support group, and that took a couple of days for all the men to agree to let us film. That takes time, but you ask politely and they think about it. Alan: We do cinema verite documentaries — observational films. You
hope they let you film them in a natural, spontaneous way. Susan: That’s the value of showing up multiples
times.
Did you hear common themes or concerns, particularly among those sentenced as juveniles?
Susan: Well their complaints are about harsh sentences. One of the overriding themes that we found was they

believe life without is very cruel and at least should be known as the other death penalty. Alan: I think the

younger inmates on this yard are not subject to bullying or sexual advances that are common in other prison

yards. I think they mainly were terminally depressed. California leads the nation in the inmate suicide rate.

When you get the life without parole sentence, (it can) make or break you — to get up every day and know
that nothing you do will ever make any difference on your getting out. We should also say the prison does not make it easy to visit.
In the documentary, viewers don’t hear the questions that inmates are answering. Why’d you go with that

approach?
Alan: Normally when we do interviews, the idea is to get people to talk and eliminate ourselves. We’re not

there as correspondents or personalities. We try to be as low key as possible. In the editing process, we try to

take our questions out Susan: We want it to seem like it’s flowing like a conversation so that you are

experiencing it. We think it makes it a more personal film if you get to be up close and personal with this

person instead of filtered through us.
Did you encounter any challenges while filming?
Susan: Access to the prison was difficult but we persisted. Alan: California had shut down all filming in their

prisons several years before we approached them. What they do is do it on a case-by-case basis. We were

successful in convincing them to let us in because we were doing a good representation, and also we’re

Academy Award-winning filmmakers. Once we got in, it wasn’t easy because we had to work with a press

person from the CDCR and she had never worked on a documentary film. The prison is located in the Mojave

Desert so many days we were filming we had 100 degree temperatures. It was a hard location to film in.
My final question for you is: why did you choose to make a documentary on criminal justice?
Susan: You’re shining a light on a forgotten, secret world that America doesn’t know about. If we are going to

have any reform of the criminal justice system, we have to shed some light on these places.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. You can watch Toe Tag Parole on August 3 on HBO.

Join us for the CARES Family & Friends Call

Join us for the CARES Family & Friends Call
Tuesday, August 4th at 8:00 pm
when we welcome
Jose G.


CARES is honored to present Jose G. who paroled under SB 260 two months ago after many years in prison. When he reflects on his life, he remembers a family that was loving at times, but his childhood was marked by abuse and abandonment. He was 12 when his father died from an overdose, and soon after Jose was also separated from his mother. Looking back, he sees that he ran from the pain in his young life and turned to gangs. At seventeen he committed a murder, was tried as an adult, and sentenced to life in prison. For a number of years he continued as a gang member, digging deeper into a dark hole.

Join us to hear his remarkable story of transformation and how he moved from that dark place to become a man who left the gang lifestyle far behind, earned an A.A. degree in sociology and behavioral science, and won release. He is now working as an intern at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and seeks to help others. He hopes to enroll in college and says "ultimately I just want to live and love. I want to be the complete opposite of what I was for so long."

Jose will talk with CARES about the key factors he found helpful in turning his life around; describe his experience with SB 260 and the board; and answer questions from family and friends of youth sentenced to adults.

Please join us! Meet this special person,
welcome him home, and learn from him.

JUST CALL TO JOIN!
Call: (805) 399-1000 Code: 817682#

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Texas Failing Traumatized Girls

http://www.texascjc.org/girls-experiences-system

Girls' Experiences in the System

Report: Girls’ Experiences in the Texas Juvenile Justice System (Oct 2012)

Press Release: Texas Failing Traumatized Girls (Oct 24, 2012)
Half of all youth referred to the Texas juvenile justice system each year have previously experienced a significant traumatic event. This trauma can cause a youth’s stress response to be over-reactive, leading to delinquent behavior. In a secure facility, the youth’s over-reactive stress response can lead to discipline problems and deeper system involvement. In fact, recent research has revealed that a youth’s past experience with trauma is a major predictor – and for girls, the largest predictor – of the youth’s assignment to increasingly serious secure placements in the Texas juvenile justice system.
Unfortunately, Girls’ Experiences in the Texas Juvenile Justice System, a new report by TCJC, shows that Texas is failing many of these traumatized children. Half of the girls interviewed at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex report that their previous time in county juvenile facilities either did not help or actually did more harm than good for dealing with their past trauma. Tragically, eight percent report that their time at Ron Jackson is doing more harm than good, suggesting that our juvenile justice system may be re-traumatizing many of these youth.
These issues call for a system-wide response. Many of the experiences that the girls report in these interviews – including negative interactions with staff, severe isolation from family, and youth-on-youth violence – match the experiences that boys in state custody reported in a TCJC survey earlier this year. As Texas moves forward with reforms to address those concerns, we should increase funding for trauma counseling in the juvenile system, and we should revisit the policies and procedures in our juvenile facilities to respond better to the vulnerabilities and triggers of traumatized youth.

RECOMMENDATION: Increase funding support for local programs that keep youth in their home counties.

http://www.texascjc.org/girls-experiences-system

Friday, July 3, 2015

Cruel & All Too Usual A Terrifying Glimce Into The Life In Prison As A Kid

http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/cruel-and-all-too-usual/
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WARNING: The Following Video, Obtained By The Huffington Post, Show The Rough Treatment Of A Minor By Correctional Officers & May bE Disturbing To Some Viewers.
If You are In A public Place Headphones Are Advisable:
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http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/cruel-and-all-too-usual/
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>Cruel & All Too Usual A Terrifying Glimce Into The Life In Prison As A Kid By Dana Liebelson.
When the video above was filmed, the girl on the bed was 17 years old. For the purposes of this story, I’ll call her Jamie. There was a time when she liked acting in goofy comedy skits at her Detroit church or crawling into bed with her grandmother to watch TV. She loved to sing—her favorite artist was Chris Brown—but she was too shy to perform in front of other people.
Jamie, whose mother was addicted to crack cocaine, was adopted when she was 3. At high school, she fell in with a wayward crowd and started drinking and smoking weed. Since she didn't always get along with her adoptive mom, she lived with a close family friend from her church whom she referred to as her sister. One fall day in 2011, they got into a bad fight over their living arrangements. The friend told police that Jamie threw a brick at her, hitting her in the chest, and then banged the brick so hard on the front door that she broke the glass mail chute. Jamie denies the assault—and the police report notes that the brick may not have hit her friend—but she admitted to officers that she was “mad” and “trying to get back in the house.” The Wayne County court gave her two concurrent six-month sentences, for assault and destruction of a building.
In a wealthier Michigan county, kids convicted of minor offenses are almost always sentenced to community service, like helping out at the local science center. Doug Mullkoff, a criminal defense attorney in Ann Arbor, told me that prison in such circumstances is "virtually unheard of." But Jamie is from Detroit, and in January 2012, she was sent to the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, a prison that holds inmates convicted of crimes like first-degree homicide. From this point onward, her world was largely governed by codes and practices and assumptions designed for adult criminals.
Jamie is 20 now, but her soft brown eyes make her seem younger. When she first came to prison, women old enough to be her mother told her she was cute and promised to take care of her. “They rub on you and stuff, I can’t stand it,” she said. In the seven months before her 18th birthday, prison records show that Jamie was housed with at least three adult cellmates, including one in her 50s who had a history of cocaine possession. Jamie said she was also around adults in the showers and the yard. She had a bunkmate who did drugs she had never been around before, “something you snort.”
In this environment, Jamie found it hard to stay out of trouble. And when trouble came, she didn’t know how to explain herself to the guards. According to Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), Jamie “failed in every instance” to meet good-behavior standards that under Michigan law allow certain inmates to have their records scrubbed clean after they serve their sentences. In June 2012, Jamie’s special status was revoked and she was resentenced to up to five years in prison for her original crime. In May, Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that limits the circumstances under which kids with Jamie’s status can be sent to prison. However, he stressed that youth can still be placed in prison to “protect public safety.”
When this news sank in, Jamie snapped. On June 15, 2012, she started yelling so loud and for so long that a correctional officer complained in the logbook that the noise was giving her a headache. Then she climbed on her sink and threatened to kill herself. A group of officers in gas masks hauled her out of her cell as she begged them to put her down. Chemical gas that had been used to subdue another inmate lingered in the hallway, Jamie later recalled, and she started to cough. The officers pressed a spit guard on her face and fastened straps on her arms and legs and chest, a practice known as five-point restraint. Jamie became more and more distressed, but at no point did the officers attempt to calm her or even explain what they were doing. “[There was] snot coming out of my nose. I’m trying to sit up,” she said. “I’m coughing and crying at the same time, and basically the officer said I spit on her and they still tied me down.” She recalled pleading with the guards, “I’m like only 17, you can’t do this to me.”
A page from a guard’s observation log on June 15, obtained through a FOIA request.
After Jamie had been restrained, the logbook shows that she was left tied to a bed for nearly 24 hours. No therapist appears to have visited her during this time. Jamie said that on another occasion, she was restrained for days and urinated on herself. “I’ve had dreams about being held down; nobody can hear me or nothing. It’s terrifying,” she said. The MDOC declined to comment on detailed questions related to her treatment because they concerned “pending litigation” and “personal medical information.”
Jamie had never attempted suicide until she went to prison and her fellow inmates taught her how to cut herself. Over the course of several weeks in June, according to the prison log, she tried to hang herself with socks tied around her neck, to cut herself with wall scrapings and rocks and a comb, to eat paint chips off her door, and to scratch a wound on her arm with empty mayonnaise packets. She told a staff member she wanted her arm to get infected, amputated, and sent to her parents.
A checklist from the June 15, 2012 incident report when Jamie was placed in restraints.The cause of the incident is marked as "none apparent."
The treatment of kids in adult lockups recently received a rare burst of attention with the suicide of Kalief Browder on June 8 of this year. Browder was sent to the jail on Rikers Island at the age of 16 after being accused of stealing a backpack. During the three years he spent there before the charges were thrown out, he was brutally assaulted by both inmates and guards and spent about two years in solitary confinement. His case has drawn attention to what the Justice Department called a “dangerous place for adolescents” with a “pervasive climate of fear.” But the problem runs far deeper than one jail gone rogue.
In the course of reporting on a lawsuit against the Michigan prison system, I obtained a series of videos depicting the treatment of underage inmates in adult facilities, as well as hundreds of prison documents through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and other sources. (Jamie is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.) These materials show under-18-year-olds being restrained, held in solitary confinement, forcibly extracted from their cells, tasered, and allegedly sexually assaulted. Some of these incidents would not violate any official rulebook, but are simply accepted practices inside adult correctional institutions.
In 1822, when prison reformers in New York proposed the nation’s first juvenile institution, they saw the need to keep children separate from adults as “too obvious to require any argument.” The juvenile justice system was founded on the idea that young people are capable of change, and so society has a responsibility to help them overcome early mistakes in life. More recent science has only confirmed this principle. Because adolescents’ brains are still developing, their patterns of behavior not yet fixed, they have a far better chance of being rehabilitated than adults. And yet this potential is lost in prisons and jails, which barely recognize any distinction between adults and minors.
http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/cruel-and-all-too-usual/

In the 1980s and ‘90s, the United States was gripped by panic over the specter of the teenage “super-predator,” and the controversial Princeton professor John DiIulio warned darkly of “the youngest, biggest and baddest generation any society has ever known.” These claims would turn out to be wildly overblown, but during this period many states introduced laws making it easier for children to be prosecuted as adults. Between 1985 and 1995, the number of youth incarcerated in prisons and jails roughly doubled. As of 2013, almost 6,000 kids were held in adult facilities across the country.

Compared to kids who do their time in juvenile detention, those in the adult system attempt suicide more often. One study, reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tracked what happened to minors in custody for similar crimes. After they were released, those who had served in the adult system were 77 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent felony than those who were sent to juvenile institutions.
There is an increasing body of scientific research showing that when adolescents suffer from extreme stress and trauma, it can inflict permanent damage on their bodies and brains. A study led by the CDC found that children who experienced multiple forms of trauma, such as physical and sexual abuse, had a life expectancy 20 years shorter than their counterparts.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

~Not eligible to practice law

http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/92408-ca-byron-congdon-307492.html (June 30 2015)

Byron Congdon San Bernardino Attorney:
Not To Be Practicing Law!!
State CA.
Status Acquired (1986)
Updated~(5/20/2015)
CA ~Not eligible to practice law (Not Entitled) Professional Misconduct
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority.
3rd Discipline:-- Discipline with actual suspension
issued in CA, 2014 - updated on Mar 18, 2014
This sanction means the attorney lost his or her license to practice law for a period of time.
Discipline with actual suspension
issued in CA, 2012 ---- updated on Mar 4, 2013
Client Reviews out of 1 total
Review Byron Congdon
Posted by a Wrongful Death client
on Sep 11, 2013
Beware of this Attorney
Mr. Byron E Congdon is a bad bad Attorney. He never answers calls. He pushes court dates for years, he does

not study his cases before trial. He got my son locked up for 25 yrs. to life. Because he did not care. My son is

innocent of what he was accused of. If this Attorney would have done his job, my son would be home. This so

called Attorney needs to sell his law books and go fishing. Thanks for everything Mr Congdon, you have ruined

our entire lives.
Less
Practice Areas -Wrongful Death: 100%

Attorney Endorsements 0 total Byron Is Not Endorseed By Any Other Attorneys:
Byron E Congdon, Attorney at Law, APC
1918 Business Center Dr Ste 106
San Bernardino, CA, 92408-3451
Office (909) 383-7789- CA
1986- 05/20/2015 ~Not Able To Practice Law.
Professional Misconduct
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority.
Discipline with actual suspension ; issued in CA, 2014
updated on Mar 18, 2014
This sanction means the attorney lost his or her license to practice law for a period of time. The attorney

typically returns to practicing law when the suspension expires.
Discipline with actual suspension / issued in CA, 2012 -updated on Mar 4, 2013
This sanction means the attorney lost his or her license to practice law for a period of time. The attorney

typically returns to practicing law when the suspension expires.
Public reproval with/duties / issued in CA, 2006 - updated on Nov 13, 2011
This sanction means the attorney did something wrong but may still practice law. The Bar placed conditions on

the lawyer's activities to try to prevent a recurrence of the wrongful act.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Teen Kills Himself After Lock Up In Solitary

Teen kills himself after lock up in solitary confinement on Rikers.

Kalif Brower Killed himself last week after spending 3 years in solitary. being in Solitary in Rikers prison in New York.
He was 16 years old waiting to go to trial.
Commentators have dubbed last week's suicide of Kalief Browder – who, at sixteen, was arrested and incarcerated on Rikers Island for three years while awaiting trial – a "tragedy." "Tragedy" suggests an unavoidable calamity. Kalief's heartbreaking death was the direct result of irrational criminal and juvenile justice policies compounded by deliberate acts of cruelty and indifference by those charged with ensuring his safety during his 1,000 days in jail. That the loss of this young man, so full of promise, was utterly preventable makes it all the more horrifying.
According to the New Yorker, Browder was charged with robbery of a backpack in 2010. From the start, many questions arose regarding his involvement in the crime; the complaining witness, for example, provided conflicting details about the incident, including the date on which it occurred. At the time, Browder was a high school sophomore who teachers described as "smart" and "fun." The court set bail at $3,000, which his mother could not afford to post. So, he sat in jail.
Over the next three years, Browder was brutalized numerous times by correctional officers and other inmates. He was held in solitary confinement and deprived of any meaningful human interaction for a total of almost two years. His physical and mental health deteriorated; for the first time, he began to contemplate suicide and attempted at least once to hang himself. Despite this trauma, he rejected numerous, increasingly lenient plea offers, insisting on his innocence and his right to a trial. Ultimately, the case against him was dismissed and he was released in May 2013. After returning home, he continued to suffer the psychological aftershocks of his ordeal. His life, as he saw it, had been derailed. He was only 22 when he took his own life.
First, although he was just 16 at the time of his arrest, he was charged as an adult and held in an adult jail. Every state, including New Jersey, has mechanisms for prosecuting children in the adult system, under the guise of public safety. Yet study after study has established that young people prosecuted as adults reoffend more frequently and more seriously than those who remain in the juvenile justice system. Like Browder, they are more likely to be physically and sexually assaulted while in custody, more likely to attempt or commit suicide and less likely to receive essential educational services and mental health treatment.

Second, though Browder was never convicted of the robbery, he sat in jail for three years. He wasn't detained because he was dangerous or likely to skip town: he was jailed because he didn't have $3,000. Throughout the country, including in New Jersey, jails are filled with people who are in jail simply because they are poor. And Browder, like so many people in our state, didn't wait weeks or months for his day in court, he waited years. Courts in New Jersey have failed to enforce the right to a speedy trial even in cases where it took more than four years to bring a defendant to trial.
Finally, Browder, like so many incarcerated people, suffered long periods of solitary confinement, and he attributed his ongoing depression and anxiety to the trauma of that isolation. This is consistent with a substantial body of research establishing that even a short stint in solitary can lead to profound psychological distress, including chronic and overwhelming depression, paranoia, hallucinations and feelings of rage and violence. Solitary is even more dangerous for children, whose brains are still developing and are more acutely affected by the denial of human contact.

http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/06/nj_should_learn_from_kalief_browders_death_how_to.html

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

California has long led the world in juvenile injustice

California Rightly Revisits Its Tough-on-Youth-Crime Stance''

California has long led the world in juvenile injustice. Just five years ago, when there were only seven people outside the U.S. serving life prison terms with no possibility of parole for crimes they had committed before they became adults, California had more than 200.

They were locked up with no hope for eventual release largely because of cruel and costly laws adopted in a frenzy of anti-crime sentiment in the 1980s and 1990s. Rising gang crime fueled fears that juveniles had somehow become inhuman and deranged a belief likely bolstered by the fact that California voters were disproportionately older and white, while the youths being charged with violent crimes were disproportionately Latino and African American. The cultural gap may have made it easier for voters to see juvenile offenders and their families as alien to society rather than an integral part of it.

A 1990 anti-crime ballot measure made life-without-parole sentences the norm for killers, and many other offenders, under 18. Teenagers who committed crimes could be written off and imprisoned as forever beyond redemption.

The tough-on-youth-crime stance ignored a growing body of scientific research demonstrating that teenagers simply don’t have brains that are sufficiently developed to provide the kinds of judgment and impulse controls expected of adults.

Gradually, leaders and lawmakers here came to realize that it was unjust to lock up people for crimes committed in their youth without leaving even the slightest chance for parole, regardless of their underdeveloped mental and emotional state at the time of the crime, regardless of any reckoning or responsibility gained over the course of their imprisonment.

Finally, in 2012, the law changed. The prison doors were not thrown open; on the contrary, the new law merely allowed such inmates who had already served at least 15 years to ask judges to change their sentences to allow parole hearings. If the judge agrees, parole can still be denied, and even if it is granted the governor can overturn the decision. But youthful offenders, aging in prison, gained at least a chance at freedom.
On Wednesday, Edel Gonzalez, now in his 30s, became the first person released from a California prison under the new law. An Orange County judge, the parole board and the governor were convinced that the person who committed a senseless killing at 16 had grown to understand the immorality of his act, had been punished, had been rehabilitated and was no danger to society.

It would be all the more cruel and unusual to deny a parole hearing to people merely because their horrendous juvenile mistakes were committed in the distant past.
The successful process shows that California, too, has grown beyond senselessness in its sentencing laws although it was not ahead of the national curve. Over the last decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has demonstrated an evolving understanding of the essential differences between adolescents and adults.

In 2005, the justices ruled that it was unconstitutional for a state to put a person to death for a murder committed as a minor. Just as juveniles cannot be entrusted with the rights and responsibilities of adults, given that they lack an adult’s judgment and maturity, they cannot be held to answer for their crimes to the same degree that an adult can, the court reasoned. They could be imprisoned, but not executed.

The same reasoning applied in 2010, when the court struck down sentences of life without even the possibility of parole for crimes — other than murder — that perpetrators committed while still juveniles. The justices ruled that such offenders should be able to at least have a chance to request parole, sometime in their adult years, after demonstrating remorse and working to make amends.

In 2012, the court ruled again, this time applying their previous reasoning to most murder convictions. If the basis for the earlier rulings was that juveniles lack an adult’s capacity to reason and to act responsibly, the fact that the crime was especially egregious doesn’t change that. Not every life without parole sentence for a killing committed in the perpetrator’s youth is now necessarily deemed cruel and unusual, but courts must consider the mitigating circumstances, including age.

And how about juveniles sentenced before the 2012 ruling? In December, the court agreed to consider whether its ruling should apply to states retroactively. But the case became moot in January, when the inmate in the case the justices were considering was released from a Louisiana prison. On Monday, though, they took another case that calls on them to answer the same question.

On the merits, the answer should be easy: If a life-without-parole sentence for a crime committed while the perpetrator was a juvenile is cruel and unusual punishment for anyone sentenced after the 2012 decision, it’s just as much a constitutional violation for anyone who has been serving such a sentence for years or even decades.

The court’s decision hinges in part on procedural rules defining when states can make such decisions for themselves. As the justices work through those rules, though, they should keep the substance of the constitutional question foremost in their minds. It would be all the more cruel and unusual to deny a parole hearing to people merely because their horrendous juvenile mistakes were committed in the distant past instead of recently.

California, meanwhile, is still no leader in more enlightened approaches to the sentencing of juvenile offenders. Despite the state law allowing them to seek resentencing, the state now has more than 300 inmates serving life without parole for offenses they committed before adulthood. California courts and lawmakers are waiting for the high court to decide whether a practice deemed cruel and unusual nevertheless remains permissible when applied to people locked up before 2012