Starting Jan. 1 prosecutors in California will no longer be able to try teenagers younger than 16 accused of murder, rape or other serious crimes as adults.
Daniel Mendoza, 23, supports the new law. Nine years ago he was tried as an adult for murder, but ended up in the juvenile system where he was required to continue school.
He told state lawmakers earlier this year that staying out of adult prison saved him from becoming a lifelong criminal.
"With time I started to grow and mature through the help of caring adults and services provided at the juvenile institution," Mendoza said.
Mendoza graduated from UC Davis earlier this year with a degree in Sociology.
"Even youth accused of committing the most serious crimes should not be disposable," he said. "We can grow, we can change and contribute to our communities."
Under the new law, 14-and-15-year-old defendants will be held in juvenile facilities instead of adult prison. District attorneys argue the judicial system needs to adequately punish the most heinous criminals, regardless of their age.