Creating Meaningful Opportunities for Release: Graham, Miller and California's Youth Offender Parole Hearings

60 Pages Posted: 25 May 2016  

Beth Caldwell

Southwestern Law School

Date Written: May 24, 2016

Abstract

This article presents findings from a study on the implementation of California’s new Youth Offender Parole Hearing law, which aims to provide juvenile offenders with meaningful opportunities to obtain release from adult prison. It contributes to the debate surrounding how to apply the “meaningful opportunity to obtain release” standard that the Supreme Court deliberately left open to interpretation in Graham v. Florida and, to some extent, in Miller v. Alabama. The Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Montgomery v. Louisiana reinforces the idea that juveniles who demonstrate that they are capable of change are entitled to release. The data contained in this Article was obtained by reviewing the transcripts of the first 107 Youth Offender Parole Hearings; this sample represents all but two of the Youth Offender Parole Hearings that took place between January 2014 and June 2014. In the first six months of the law’s implementation, juvenile offenders were found suitable for parole at younger ages than the general population. Further, youth offenders appeared to have a more realistic chance of being released under the new law. This reform is, at the very least, an important step towards offering juvenile offenders more meaningful opportunities to earn their release from prison. At the same time, it does not go far enough. After discussing some limitations of the law, this Article concludes by recommending guidelines that would provide youth offenders more meaningful opportunities for release in parole hearings.

Keywords: meaningful opportunity for release, juvenile offender, parole, LWOP

Suggested Citation

Caldwell, Beth, Creating Meaningful Opportunities for Release: Graham, Miller and California's Youth Offender Parole Hearings (May 24, 2016). New York University Review of Law & Social Change, Forthcoming; Southwestern Law School Research Paper No. 2016-5. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2783909

Beth Caldwell (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

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