California: New Law to Protect Jailed Youth


Under-22s No Longer Summarily Sent to Harshest Prisons

Brown speaks at a news conference to announce the Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2012 at Ronald Reagan State Building in Los Angeles

Brown speaks at a news conference to announce the Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2012 at Ronald Reagan State Building in Los Angeles (Credits: Human RIghts Watch)

(Sacramento, September 28, 2014) – California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that could prevent hundreds of young offenders from enduring rape, assault, and gang life in prison, Human Rights Watch said today.

On September 27, 2014, Brown signed Assembly Bill 1276, which requires 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. Human Rights Watch has advocated for passage of the bill.

“California’s new law has the potential to dramatically change the lives of thousands of young offenders,” said Elizabeth Calvin, senior children’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. “With this law California will help protect the young people it sends to prison from being raped, beaten, or forced to join gangs.”

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,” where young inmates are very vulnerable to assault, rape, and other violence, and come in close contact with prison’s most negative influences.

In the Level IV yards, gang members and others prey upon young people. The maximum security units also offer fewer rehabilitative and educational services. Under the new law, California recognizes that young people need special protections and deserve increased access to educational opportunities.

“This new law recognizes both the vulnerability and potential of young offenders,” Calvin said. “It means fewer young adults will be raped and assaulted in prison. They won’t be forced to turn to gangs for protection or in despair, and will have greater access to educational programs.”

Read the entire news story at Human Rights Watch.

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