Gov. Brown Signs PJDC-Supported Bill to Help Young Prisoners

On September 27, 2014, Governor Brown signed into law AB 1276.  The new law will require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to conduct committee-based, specialized review of each person under age 22 entering prison to consider placing them at a lower security level facility with increased access to educational and self-help programs.

This legislation will dramatically change the lives of thousands of young people entering prison. Approximately 4,800 people under age 22 are admitted to California prisons each year. Under current practice, many are routinely sent to the maximum security prison units, known as “Level IV yards,” by virtue of their age alone.  That practice ignores what science and law have increasingly affirmed: this is a critical period of brain and personal development.  

On these Level IV yards, the young prisoners are especially vulnerable to assault, rape and other violence and come in close contact with prison’s most negative influences. These yards also offer fewer rehabilitative and educational services.

From a policy perspective, this law is a significant shift and will help the state move forward in recognizing that age 18 is not a bright dividing line, and young adults need special protection and opportunities.

The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom.  PJDC Board Member Elizabeth Calvin of Human Rights Watch played a pivotal role in organizing sponsors and supporters of the legislation.