AFTER CALIFORNIA ABOLISHES JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE SENTENCES
One member of Kid C.A.T. (Creating Awareness Together) hopes to bring National Youth Justice Awareness Month to California next October to foster discussion and find solutions to issues concerning youth.
YJAM organizers host a variety of events, including 5K runs/walks, film screenings, poetry slams, picnics and concerts. The events, hosted in 14 states and the District of Columbia, raise awareness about juveniles who were prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system.
So far, no YJAM events have been celebrated in California. Michael Nelson hopes to change that.
“When we say, ‘Let’s give juveniles a fair chance,’ we are really saying, ‘Let’s give all youth a fair chance,’” said Nelson, who committed his crime at the age of 15 and was sentenced to 25 years to life.
Nelson is chairman of Kid C.A.T, a group that brings awareness to issues affecting Californian youth. He said he hopes to bring YJAM to California in 2013 in the form of a concert to raise awareness to issues such as child homelessness, bullying, teen suicide and gang violence.
“The objective of the concert is to promote Youth Justice Awareness Month of October in our state,” Nelson said. “The message: we can do better.”
California has recently made progress in youth justice issues. In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure that would allow judges to reconsider the sentences of some youth sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole.
Senate Bill 9 allows such juveniles, who have already served at least 15 years, to file for a sentence reduction from LWOP to 25 years to life. To qualify, they must show remorse and good behavior in prison.
“SB9 and [Youth Justice Awareness Month] are both connected to youth justice,” Nelson said. “They both reflect the need to pay closer attention to the issues that concern young people as a whole.”