We've heard of kids flying for free, getting into theme parks for free, even eating at restaurants free of charge. Now a California assemblyman wants to extend the courtesy to children convicted of crimes in the Golden State: Under Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's proposal, crimes committed when convicts were younger than 18 would no longer count under California's three-strikes law.

“California's budget and prison overcrowding crises are invariably linked – and so are their solutions,” states Ammiano, the San Francisco Democrat who also wants to fully legalize marijuana. “Effective public safety policies cannot just rely on law enforcement and incarceration. Reforming our three strikes law is a way of respecting basic civil rights while reallocating our limited criminal justice resources more wisely.”

He introduced AB 1751 this week in hopes of preventing juvenile crimes from being counted as strikes against adults who see further convictions. “Juveniles should not have their future lives permanently mortgaged based on poor decisions in their youth,” Ammiano states.

California's three-strikes law calls for serious time for repeat offenders in the state and was intended to target violent criminals. According to the ACLU, however, 65 percent of those sentenced under a third-strike conviction are nonviolent criminals. Nearly one-fourth of the state's prison population (42,445) were behind bars in 2003 under third-strike convictions.

Third-strike convictions have been cited as a possible factor in the state's prison overcrowding, a condition that has contributed to a federal order to release 40,000 prisoners in California this year.

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