California inmates sentenced to life in prison without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles would be guaranteed a shot at freedom under a bill approved by the Assembly.
The bill still needed final Senate approval Friday to align state law with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions by automatically giving youthful offenders a chance at parole after 25 years.
Five years ago, the nation's high court banned mandatory sentences of life without parole for those younger than 18 convicted of murder. Last year, the court made the ruling retroactive.
State lawmakers backing SB394 said juvenile offenders should be treated differently than adults because of their lack of intellectual development and potential to change.
Opponents say retroactively reducing the penalty is unfair to victims and other inmates who don't qualify.