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Democratic Lawmakers Push Juvenile Justice Reform

Julia Mitric / Capital Public Radio

California State Senator Ricardo Lara and Senator Holly Mitchell spoke about a package of juvenile justice measures at Leataata Floyd Elementary School in Sacramento on March 20, 2017.

Julia Mitric / Capital Public Radio

Senators Holly Mitchell and Ricardo Lara spoke about a package of criminal justice bills while visiting Leataata Floyd Elementary School in Sacramento.

Mitchell, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, acknowledged some minors are involved in serious crime. But she spoke out against incarcerating children under 12 years old as if they were "pint-sized" adults.

"We are suggesting they should be dealt with in the child welfare services side of the house," explained Mitchell.

She talked about having youth in group settings and group homes where they can be held and helped.

"But it's not jail. It's not incarceration. It would be age-appropriate housing, treatment and services," said Mitchell.

Some of the bills will draw law enforcement opposition, such as a measure that would require children under 18 to consult with an attorney before waiving their Miranda rights.

Cory Salzillo is Legislative Director with the California State Sheriff's Association.

Salzillo says the CSSA will oppose the measure because it could "cast doubt on potentially truthful statements that could be called into question simply because a minor had not consulted with counsel before choosing to waive Miranda rights."

The Miranda measure drew a veto last year from Governor Jerry Brown, who said the bill raised complex questions and a better understanding was needed before changing the law.

Senator Lara, who is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is co-author of the Miranda measure. Lara points out that the governor's veto message contained his promise to work with stakeholders on both sides of the issue.

The bills will face committee hearings this spring, some as soon as this week.

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