Emerging adults are sent to prison at disproportionately high rates, are oftentimes strapped with lengthy sentences, and experience the most extreme racial disparities in the criminal legal system. These early release laws, and a contemporary wave of other justice reforms that are focused specifically on emerging adults, are based on the premise that the period during which a person transitions to adulthood is a distinct developmental stage during which people are both malleable and amenable to positive influence and change.
Several jurisdictions have enacted laws providing early release mechanisms for “youthful offenders”—people serving sentences for crimes committed during adolescence or emerging adulthood. These laws create a meaningful opportunity for people in this population to obtain either early parole release or a sentence reduction after serving a portion of the initial sentence.
The panelist of experts discussed recently proposed and enacted laws in California, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
Panel speakers included:
- Charles Allen, Councilmember, Ward 6, Council of the District of Columbia
- Natalie Behr, Columbia Law School '21 and former Law and Policy Research Associate at the Columbia Justice Lab
- Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, State Representative, House District 4, Colorado
- Francis ("Frankie") Guzman, Director of the California Youth Justice Initiative at the National Center for Youth Law
- John Windham, CEO of the nonprofit organization WE ALL WE GOT. John is a community leader, human rights activist, and member of Initiate Justice's Institute of Impacted Leaders.