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BASF’s Board of Directors Vote to Support SB 399 – The Fair Sentencing for Youth Act


April 29, 2009 -- San Francisco --The Bar Association of San Francisco Board of Directors voted April 15, 2009, to support passage of Senate Bill 399 titled The Fair Sentencing for Youth Act.

In California, youth as young as 14 years old are sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is, in essence, a sentence to die in prison. Senate Bill 399 provides review of these cases after a youth offender (someone below the age of 18 at the time of the offense) has served a substantial amount of time in prison. It is an important piece of legislation because it protects public safety while at the same time recognizing that youth are different from adults. SB 399 holds youth accountable but also provides a chance for young offenders to prove they have changed.

Senate Bill 399 holds youth offenders responsible for their actions. Youth offenders will have a chance to prove they deserve a resentencing hearing only after serving 10, 15, 20, or 25 years. The bill requires the offender to prove that he or she has chosen a different path in life and is worthy of parole consideration. It creates a strong system of checks and balances, as well: not only will an offender have to prove rehabilitation to a judge, but he or she will still face a parole board.

Sentencing adolescents to life without parole is out of step with the rest of the world and applied unfairly here in California. The United States is the only country in the world that imposes life without parole on youth under the age of 18 years old. This extreme punishment is a violation of international law and fundamental human rights. In addition, in California racial disparities in the use of this sentence are among the worst in the country: black youth are sentenced to life without parole at a per capita rate that is 18 times that for white youth. Finally, adult codefendants charged in the same cases are getting lower sentences and the opportunity for parole. In 56 percent of the cases in which a youth sentenced to life without parole had an adult codefendant, the adult got a lesser sentence than the youth. California should lead the nation in changing these inequities.  

Read BASF President Russell S. Roeca’s letter to Senator Leland Yee.                      

The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of over 8,000 attorneys, law students and legal professionals in the Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF is one of the largest and most dynamic metropolitan bar associations in the U.S., with a long and distinguished record of community action, public service and service to the legal profession.

Questions about media relations, BASF issues currently in the news, San Francisco Attorney magazine, marketing and communications:

Ann Murphy, Director of Communications & Public Relations
(415) 782-9000 x8792

For general communications inquiries:

Sayre Happich, Assistant Director of Communications & Public Relations
(415) 782-9000 x8104