All children are capable of and worthy of redemption. The legislature should pass changes to the Juvenile Parole Bill to allow young people to realize their profound potential for rehabilitation.
1. WHAT THIS BILL DOES
First, this bill ends life without parole as a sentencing option for children, following in the steps of twenty-five (25) states and Washington D.C.
Second, this bill creates developmentally meaningful timing for parole eligibility, while balancing a commitment to consequences and accountability in the most severe of cases. The bill does not allow for automatic release, but gives youth the opportunity for review.
All children are capable of and worthy of redemption.
2. IN RARE AND EXTREME CASES, PAROLE ELIGIBILITY WILL BE AT 20 OR 25 YEARS
In prior versions of this bill, timing of parole eligibility was set at 15 years for those serving long adult sentences for crimes committed as children.
After careful consideration, the timing for parole eligibility has been extended in two severe and rare circumstances. For first-degree murder (other than felony murder), an individual will not be eligible for consideration for parole until 20 years into their sentence. For two or more convictions of first-degree murder, an individual must serve 25 years before they are eligible for consideration for parole.
The new version of the bill followed thoughtful discussion with stakeholders, including the Association of District Attorneys. Amendments reflect an effort to account for heightened consequences in extreme cases.
25 states have already ended life without parole as a sentencing option for children.
3. FOR MOST PEOPLE IMPACTED BY THIS BILL, TIMING FOR PAROLE ELIGIBILITY REMAINS 15 YEARS
The bill still provides only the opportunity for release on parole, not a guarantee of release. Of the 75 people impacted by this bill, only 11 will face these longer time-served requirements under the changes.
The majority of cases of youth-involved violence are not premeditated crimes. Youth crime is generally impulsive and often involves peer influence. And a significant majority of cases will ultimately reflect “transitory immaturity,” a feature of adolescence which will resolve as adolescents mature, resulting in desistance from criminal misconduct. These are the hallmarks of adolescent behavior that make the parole reform developmentally important.