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Juvenile Life without Parole

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Friday, August 6, 2021 at 7:35 AM filed under General postings

Juvenile Life without Parole

The United States of America is the only country that sentences children under eighteen to life without parole. Judges sentence young people to the same terms as adults. Most of the states created laws for mandatory sentencing, and few states still have statutory exceptions for children. The Supreme Court of the United States of America should abolish the juvenile life without parole punishment for all juvenile offenders sentenced before 2006.

Colorado has always had a juvenile justice system that focused on child’s rehabilitation rather than imprisonment and punishment. In the 1980s and 1990s, everything changed, when crimes committed by youth increased. In 1992, the USA ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It focused on rehabilitation of imprisoned juveniles; however, it sentenced them to life without parole in extreme cases. Until 2006, the judges in Colorado could impose life without parole punishment to children starting at the age of fourteen. Colorado changed the way of youth sentencing and decided they had a potential for becoming better citizens. Today, judges should consider the differences in youth’s development.

In May 2006, the Colorado General Assembly abolished life without parole sentence for young people in Colorado. Twelve members of the Colorado General Assembly approved the House Bill 06-1315. This bill, signed by the Governor Bill Owens, prevents the youth from life without parole sentence. It even includes those convicted of homicide offences. It covers only those cases in which the defendants committed crimes after July 2006. The Colorado General Assembly set the alternative sentence for juveniles at forty years without parole. The case of Graham v. Florida proves that this bill functions appropriately. In 2010, the American Supreme Court stated that life without parole sentence for juveniles convicted of non-homicide offences was unconstitutional.

The Eight Amendment prohibits imposing a sentence of life incarceration without parole to a juvenile for non-homicide offences, committed before the offender reached the age of eighteen. However, there are certain crimes that this Amendment does not cover. The Colorado General Assembly has explained that justice is interested in juvenile’s rehabilitation. Mainly, they care of those convicted as adults of class one felony. In 2005, The New York Times featured stories that reported on young prisoners serving life without parole. Some of them were younger than fifteen years old when they committed crimes and could spend their entire life incarcerated.

Despite any predictions made during the 1980s and 1990s, the rate of juvenile crime declined. In 2005, the American Supreme Court abolished the juvenile’s death penalty. Since that time, there have been controversial discussions across the United States of America. People wanted the justice to change the severe punishments meted out to juveniles.

Colorado was the first state that passed a bill changing life without parole sentence for youth to forty years before parole eligibility. However, despite all the advantages this bill was not retroactive. Forty-five former juveniles serve life without parole in Colorado’s prisons. These people will die in these places. Most of the young offenders charged with felony murder by 2006 are still in prison. There are many different opinions regarding this issue. Jeffrey Fagan, the law professor at Columbia University, said that such a decision not to make this reform retroactive was a political deal.

There is no doubt that this reform bill should eventually become retroactive. No matter what, the laws are the same for all people. The legislation could make some specifications about the offence severity and what term to the sentence. People who committed crimes before 2006 and after it are the same. All of them are offenders, and the justice system should punish them equally. The only thing that differs is the degree of committed offence. However, the attorneys who represent the prisoners state that even the term of forty years for some of them is virtually the life sentence. Juvenile offenders should have a right to change and to become better. Those people who still serve their sentences do not know if they can ever get the answers regarding their future.

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