Crime in the California State Assembly

State Senator Leland Yee

I don’t have the heart to write this.

For years, Sen. Leland Yee has been trying to convince the California State legislature to reform JLWOP– Juvenile Life Without Parole, that is, minors being sentenced to remain behind bars till they die. Yee is not only a State Senator, but also a child psychologist who knows very well that the judgment of a teenager is very different from the judgment of an adult.

This year, a much watered-down version of The Fair Sentencing for Youth Act passed the Senate, making it possible, under some limited circumstances, for a prisoner who’d committed the offense while a minor to go to court and seek to have the sentence changed to 25-to-life. That’s still a life sentence, but offers a glimmer of hope –a parole hearing to be held after serving at least 25 years. Few prisoners would qualify for the hearing. The California Board of Prison Terms routinely denies parole anyway or tells prisoners to return for another hearing in ten years or more. Senator Yee’s bill would not have opened the floodgates releasing violent offenders back into the community.

Last week, his bill failed to pass the Assembly.

We are all shamed, but it’s time to call out the people who belong on the roll call of shame, the Assembly members who so fear being called soft on crime that they couldn’t bring themselves to do the right and rational thing.

Their names: Anthony Adams, Joel Anderson, Juan Arambula, Bill Berryhill, Tom Berryhill, Marty Block, Joan Buchanan, Anna M. Caballero, Charles Calderon, Connie Conway, Paul Cook, Chuck DeVore, Nathan Fletcher, Jean Fuller, Ted Gaines, Martin Garrick, Danny Gilmore, Curt Hagman, Diane Harkey, Alyson Huber, Kevin Jeffries, Steve Knight, Ted Lieu, Dan Logue, Fiona Ma, Jeff Miller, Brian Nestande, Roger Niello, Jim Nielsen, Chris Norby, Anthony Portantino, Jim Silva, Cameron Smyth, Jose Solorio, Audra Strickland, Norma Torres, Van Tran, Michael Villines

The bill might have passed if other Assembly members had shown up and taken a stand and voted for it: Wesley Chesbro, Hector De La Torre, Cathleen Galgiani, Tony Mendoza, Pedro Nava, V. Manuel Perez

As parole board commissioners like to say in their routine boilerplate denials, these people “lack insight and express no remorse.”

Diane Lefer

Diane Lefer’s new book, The Blessing Next to the Wound, has just been published. Co-authored with Hector Aristizábal, it is a true story of surviving torture and civil war and seeking change (including change in how we treat our youth) through action.


  1. donna lewis says

    Lets look at the unfair sentencing practices in california criminal justic. fabian nunez son with three of his friends brutally stabbed a man to death assalted other, through the bloody knife in the ocean, burnt the bloods shirt, and then went online (my space) bragging the gangsta rapp made him do it. In addition, the four of them shared same tattoes, but was not charged with gang alligation. nor where the charged with obstruction of justice. Instead, they were allowed to plea for a lessor sentence of 16 years. Did the judge, d.a care about the victim in this case or is it because he was the son of a plitician gave hem a pleas for manslaughter. I am outraged because it couldnt have been my everday african american son on trial for such a crime be facing life with enhancements. My son was convicted for attempted murder in a case were no one was shot, nor did the victims testify that it was him. no fingerprints or witness and he was sentenced to 35 years.. Is this equal justice in america. A drive by to me is a act of a coward, but physically stabing a person to death seem barbaric… Un fair justic in america. Then early this week fabin nunez wanted to talk to the judge about his son sentence he dont feel his son should serve 16yrs for the case that the acutual boy who did the stabing. In african american case just there gives you the same time what makes his son any different then mines. Please keep your eyes and ear open on a sentence reduction. why dont those politiciaN WHO VOTED NO on senate bill 399 go to the d.a and up the charges to murder and give him a lenghty sentence for the actual murder and not manslaughter now how does the d.a office explain that sentence////

  2. donna lewis says

    im not sure if these politician have ever has sociology, psycology in the college education. As an adult it appears that the politician lack respect for humans, especially when it comes to racism in the criminal justice system. Giving the procecutor more power in the courts than the sitting judge is rediculous. Then why are the judges appointed to the bench if the d.a office has more power. As an african american single parent i know to well how the miscarriage of justice is been done. It is charged by racil bias. For gods sake we are in 2010 not it the jim crow era, and still minorities are subject to long periods of incarceration.. Does this mean still is the U.S. African Americans still considered slave. No longer in cotton fields but throught institution slavery (prison). Should i really believe that african american youths have 3 lifestyles map out for their lives.(1) death before age 25, (2) go to military are (3) prison. This is not exceptable, life sentencing or these enhancement which gives longer terms than the crime that bought them to court should be unconstitutional… help pass senate bill 399……. from a concern citzen and mother…

  3. Jerilyn Stapleton says

    As a person that supports the Youth PROMISE Act HR 1064/S 435 on the federal level, I was in full support of SB 399. I’m outraged and disappointed in most of the names on this list. I sent the notice to call our representatives to like minded friends and made many phone calls urging a yes vote to fall on deaf ears apparently. Sentencing our youth to life without the possibility of parole is just plain wrong and needs to be corrected.

  4. LD says

    Use a graduated system based on developmental milestones that make their behavior a function of their ability to control themselves, for example brain maturity.

    In this example, there would be six perpetrator classifications: child perp/class V, ages to 16; adolescent perp/class IV, to age 18; pre-adult perp, class III, to age 21; adult/class II, to age 25; mature adult/class I, to death.

    Individuals who murder or disfigure their victims are subject to wearing black bracelets that traverse subsequent classes through natural or induced death.

    Individuals convicted of sex crimes against children wear ankle bracelets that emit an alarm triggering signal within 100 yards of a receiver.

    Class II-V are detention/rehab only and so not sustain a criminal record past 25 with the exception of narrative documentation of involvement in detention. Class I is permanent w/o corrections to record except through commutation, retrial, or new evidence.

  5. says

    NEWS FLASH! I just heard from the Youth Justice Coalition. The bill is being reconsidered today. One more chance! Phone or fax your Assembly representative, please!

    • says

      Margie, thanks for pointing this out and connecting it to SB 1275. Obviously there are people on the list who–short of a true conversion experience–aren’t going to change their rightwing ideology. But there are others such as De La Torre and Mendoza who must be held accountable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *