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By Gilien Silsby

USC Gould School of Law’s Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP) announced today that it is expanding its client base to include representation of juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

The move comes as California addresses life-term sentences for 16- and 17-year-old youths. This week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act into law, creating a review process for juveniles sentenced to life without parole. They may now petition the court to be resentenced to a life term with the possibility of parole.

“We have taken on this issue because children are different than adults, and deserve to be treated differently in our criminal justice system,” said USC Gould Prof. Heidi Rummel, who co-directs the PCJP. “Courts and scientists, and now the California legislature and Gov. Brown, agree that adolescents are less culpable. Their brains are still developing. They are impulsive, vulnerable to peer pressure and often victims of their life circumstances. But most importantly, they have a much greater capacity to grow and change.”

PCJP has agreed to represent 12 juvenile offenders serving life without parole sentences. Sixteen USC Gould students are working on the cases under the supervision of Rummel and USC Gould Prof. Michael Brennan, who co-directs the PCJP.