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Woman to be released for killing as a juvenile

A California woman who was convicted of a serious crime in juvenile court when she was 16 will be released on orders from the governor. The woman, age 35, was first sent to prison when she was 16 years old. Her crime: killing the man who had prepared her to be a prostitute since she was age 11. The case has become a model for the changing approach to juvenile sentencing that is becoming more common throughout the state. Legislators and advocates alike now agree that juvenile offenders deserve a chance at rehabilitation rather than automatically receiving harsh sentences.

New legislation in the state will allow for new sentencing hearings for youngsters who were sentenced to life in prison without parole. That law went into effect in January, resulting in the review of scores of cases in which juveniles may have been unfairly sentenced. Now, a bill that was signed into law in September will require parole boards to show leniency toward convicts who were sentenced as adults even though they were still minors. If those people have served at least 15 years of their long-term sentences, they could be more likely to be released under the new system. So far, about 1,000 eligible candidates for that process have been identified.

Lawmakers in the state say that the young woman was failed by the entirety of adult society; the woman was victimized by a sexual predator who stalked and raped her before forcing her into prostitution. When the woman tried to escape her tormentor, she was unfairly punished by being tried as an adult. Now, the governor has recommended the woman for parole, even taking steps to expedite the process.

This ongoing trend of softening prison sentences for young offenders is sure to have a positive effect on minors who need help, not time behind bars. Young people may have a bright future if they are able to be rehabilitated through more lenient court decisions rather than simply locked away for decades.

Source:, "Jerry Brown OKs freedom for woman imprisoned at 16 for killing pimp" Paige St. John, Oct. 26, 2013

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results