On January 27, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown announced his support for the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016,” a ballot initiative for the November 2016 election. The measure requires judges rather than prosecutors to decide whether juveniles as young as 14 years of age should be tried as adults, and provides a more balanced approach to the process by which youth may be transferred to the adult system. It also makes certain non-violent adult inmates eligible for parole sooner, and allows the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to award sentencing credits to people in prison for their good behavior and participation in approved rehabilitative or educational achievements. The stated goals of the initiative are to protect and enhance public safety, reduce wasteful spending on and liability for overcrowded prisons, and to stop the revolving door of crime by emphasizing rehabilitation, especially for juveniles.
The initiative was originally filed in December 2015, and was developed by a broad-based statewide group of youth advocates, lawyers, and people whose lives have been negatively affected by California’s current juvenile transfer laws. PJDC Board members were prominently involved in the drafting of the measure. The original text of the Initiative went further in restricting the circumstances under which youth could be sent to adult court; provided broader authority for adult courts to send cases back to juvenile court; and gave discretion to courts to seal records of youth involved in certain crimes. Although those provisions were amended out of the version of the initiative supported by Governor Brown, those provisions may still be pursued separately through legislation.
PJDC is gratified by the Governor’s recognition of the need to dial back transfer to the adult system. We support the amended ballot initiative, and will work for its enactment by the voters in November.