California Passes Proposition 57; Direct File Abolished

By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, California voters passed Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act in the November 8, 2016 election.  Among other things, the measure ends the direct filing of cases involving juveniles by prosecutors in adult criminal court. By enacting Proposition 57 on the November 8th ballot, the voters ensured that no case involving a juvenile may be transferred to adult court unless a judge decides, based on five criteria, that the person should be transferred.  In making its transfer decision, the court may consider developmental factors such as as the young person’s maturity, ability to assess risks and consequences, the effect of family or peer pressure, the impact of community environment and trauma, and capacity to grow and mature.

In enacting Proposition 57, the voters clearly expressed a desire for increased rehabilitation of juvenile and adults involved in the criminal justice system.  The transfer provisions assure that any decision to transfer a young person to adult court will be made with a full understanding of the young person’s background and an assessment of his or her capacity for change.

The measure also provides for earlier parole eligibility for people serving time on nonviolent offenses, and allows the prison system to offer time credits to people who improve themselves through educational and rehabilitative programs.

PJDC members were actively involved in this victory.  We drafted the original initiative, worked with the Governor’s office when he decided to join forces with us, fought the DAs when they sued to stop the initiative, collected signatures, did extensive public education and media work, and worked to get out the vote.  While many of us were involved, this effort owes a great deal to the efforts of Elizabeth Calvin, Rourke Stacy, Frankie Guzman.

PJDC has prepared two sets of materials to help practitioners in the coming period.  First, we have materials on retroactivity of direct filed cases that are not yet final.  And second, we have materials on the rules that will now govern transfer cases in juvenile court.  PJDC members and juvenile practitioners may contact PJDC  to obtain the materials through or Sue Burrell, Policy and Training Director for PJDC,