I am requesting you to support two important bills on Juvenile and Emerging Adult sentencing.
Juvenile Points Sentencing Reform Bill (HR 1324):
Current scientific research has shown that young people’s brains are not fully developed, particularly in decision-making and impulse control. However, in Washington State, if a young person made a mistake as a juvenile, it can impact their prison sentence as an adult. This means people are being punished twice for the same crime. Additionally, communities of color are disproportionately affected by over-policing of children, leading to disproportionate prison sentencing.
The Juvenile Points Sentencing Reform Bill (HB 1324) will modernize Washington’s sentencing system by eliminating automatic increases in sentence due to juvenile records, aligning the state with brain science research. It will also advance racial justice by eliminating a major cause of disproportionate prison sentencing.
Second Chances for People Incarcerated as Young Adults (HR1325):
Punishing an adult for the mistake of their youth is unfair. And the Supreme Court agrees. In 2014, the Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that because young adults have “lessened culpability” and a “capacity for change,” anyone sentenced for crimes committed under the age of 18 must have the opportunity to have their sentence reviewed. And the results have shown the value of second chances. Many released by this review have gone onto law school, found non-profits, and otherwise contribute to their communities.
However, the science behind Miller states that a young person’s brain is actually developing well into their 20s. And the current application of the law has been driving racial inequality. For example, Black people make up just 4.3% of the entire population of Washington but are 32.4% of those currently incarcerated who are sentenced as emerging adults and are serving a 15+ year sentence. There are more Black people currently incarcerated serving a de facto life sentence (50+ years) given to them as emerging adults, than there are white people in the same situation.
The Second Chances for People Incarcerated as Young Adults Bill Will:
- Increase the age for sentence review consideration from 18 to 25
- Promoting evidence-based sentencing and racial equity by allowing those given long sentences at young ages to go before the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board to demonstrate their change
- Giving a large population of incarcerated people an incentive to change
- Identifying incarcerated people who have demonstrated significant growth, change, and accountability and are ready to reintegrate back into society
I urge you to support both HB 1324 and HB 1325. Its time to bring fairness and equity into Washington's juvenile justice and emerging adult sentencing laws.