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News Highlights

Week of July 28th 2014:
Still from YouTube

ACLU: USA (RT) — In two recent rulings – Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama – the US Supreme Court drastically reduced the number of scenarios in which a juvenile could be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Massachusetts, Illinois, and other states noticed these decisions and retroactively and proactively prohibited this sentence for children. Yet because neither Supreme Court decision explicitly banned life without the possibility of parole, dozens of other states have some form of it on their books.

Week of June 16th 2014:

SFGate: BOSTON (AP) — A bill that would allow parole for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder was approved by the Massachusetts House on Wednesday. Under the measure, which passed on a 127-16 vote, people convicted of first-degree murder for crimes that occurred while they were between the ages of 14 and 18 could be eligible for parole after serving 20 to 25 years in prison.

Week of June 9th 2014:
US Supreme Court

Philly.com: Pennsylvania has more inmates convicted as juveniles for murder and sentenced to life without parole than any other place in the world. That distinction was reinforced Monday by a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The high court declined to hear an appeal by juvenile-justice advocates to revisit the sentences of those prisoners.

Week of May 26th 2014:
California Prisons Second Strikers

The Guardian: Two Massachusetts inmates sentenced to life without parole as juveniles will be the first to have parole hearings since the state’s highest court struck down mandatory life sentencing for young offenders in December. Joseph Donovan, 38, and Frederick Christian, 37, will have hearings on Thursday. They are among 63 inmates serving juvenile life without parole sentences in the state. Both were convicted of felony murder charges and have been behind bars since they were 17. Neither did the actual killings.

Week of April 21st 2014:
Juevenile Justice

Huffington Post: The Illinois Supreme Court got it right today when it ruled that all the inmates currently serving a mandatory sentence of life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles are eligible for new sentences, including sentences of less than natural life. That decision is good for the juveniles, good for society and, ultimately, good for families of victims of the crimes which led to those sentences (I am a member of one of those families: A juvenile murdered three of my family members in Winnetka in 1990, and is doing life without parole in Pontiac prison).

Week of March 3rd 2014:
Life Sentences

MichiganLive Media: LANSING, MI — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed legislation updating state sentencing guidelines in the wake of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that outlawed mandatory life terms without the possibility of parole for minors. The court invalidated “juvenile lifer” sentencing schemes in Michigan and other states, calling them an unconstitutional form of cruel and unusual punishment that fail to recognize the potential for character and cognitive development in young people.

Week of December 23rd 2014:
U.S. Supreme Court

Boston Globe: This week’s Supreme Judicial Court decision opening the door to parole for teenagers convicted of murder will force a major examination of the way the state tries, sentences, and attempts to rehabilitate them, according to legal analysts. In its Tuesday decision, Massachusetts’ highest court called on the state to quickly create a “new, constitutional sentencing scheme for juveniles convicted of homicide crimes.

Week of November 11th 2013:
Incarcerated Youth

Shreveporttimes: “It’s a big, big deal. All of the cases in Louisiana were waiting on this decision,” said Bossier-Webster District Attorney Schuyler Marvin, who has five juvenile lifers in his jurisdiction. The ruling has been anticipated for months. Absent the court’s decision, hearings on each juvenile life case would have been required.

Week of October 28th 2013:
A Bid to Keep Youths Out of Prison

NYTimes.com: In a reversal of the tough-on-crime legislation that swept the nation in the late 1980s and ’90s, nearly half of the states have now enacted one or more laws that nudge more young offenders into the juvenile justice system, divert them from being automatically tried as adults and keep them from being placed in adult jails and prisons. Sarah Brown, a director of the criminal justice program at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said the shift stems from a decline in juvenile crime, concerns about the costs of adult prisons and a growing understanding of adolescent brain development showing that the young have a greater potential for rehabilitation.

Week of October 21st 2013:

SIlive.com: Today — finally — a credible campaign is under way to persuade state legislators to inject some sanity into the way New York treats young offenders. Belying its claim to an enlightened, progressive approach to government, New York stands with only North Carolina in prosecuting every accused 16- and 17-year-old as an adult. There are no exceptions, even for first offenders charged with low-level, non-violent misdemeanors. Even worse, New York has so decimated its juvenile justice system that children as young as 13 can be tried as adults in criminal courts and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Week of October 7th 2013:
Supreme Court

The News Herald: It’s been more than three years since the U.S. Supreme Court found that Florida was illegally sentencing juvenile to life without parole for crimes other than murder. The failure of state lawmakers to subsequently reform juvenile sentencing laws means that the courts might decide the issue for them. Lawmakers need to do their jobs and establish a sensible system, one that accounts for the inherent differences between juvenile and adult offenders…The Supreme Court’s decision was based in part on the idea that juveniles, by their very nature, fail to appreciate risk and consequences. Someone who committed a heinous crime as a juvenile could be a different person more than two decades later. Whether they call it parole or something else, lawmakers should establish a review system for long juvenile sentences. Otherwise, the courts will just have to do their jobs for them.

Week of September 30th 2013:
The Morning Call

The Morning Call:Three men sentenced as teenagers to life in prison without parole will have an opportunity to convince federal judges they should be resentenced following a U.S. Supreme Court decision saying that practice is unconstitutional. The U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday the men can file appeals to their state sentences to determine whether the Supreme Court’s decision applies in their cases. The question that the federal district courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey must consider is whether the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on juvenile life sentences applies to offenders who had exhausted their appeals when the decision came down in June 2012.

Week of September 23rd 2013:
Reducing Over-Incarceration

Huffington Post: Although the federal government prosecutes only a small number of juveniles each year, it can play a leading role in shaping criminal justice policy by providing incentive grants to states that pursue its policies. The superpredator-theory led Congress to condition the receipt of federal money upon states cracking down on youthful offenders. Between 1993 and 1999, virtually every state in the country enacted new laws aimed at prosecuting more juveniles as adults. At the same time, states increased “adult time” by requiring increased mandatory minimum sentences, “truth in sentencing,” gun enhancements, “three strikes” and the abolition of parole. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of persons incarcerated in state prisons nearly doubled, rising from around 700,000 inmates in 1990 to more than 1.2 million inmates in 2000, and costs to state taxpayers rose sharply, almost bankrupting some states.

Week of September 16th 2013:
NYT Editorial Board

The New York Times’s Editorial Board writes an opinion piece, End Mandatory Life Sentences: “Ideally, life without parole would never be a sentencing option for juveniles. The Supreme Court’s own logic suggests this, even if it was not willing to go that far. After the Miller case, three states entirely eliminated juvenile life without parole, joining six other states that had already banned the sentence, and lawsuits on the retroactivity issue are pending in several states. As lawmakers and courts deal with this issue, they should remember — as the Supreme Court has declared — that adolescents are not adults, and that principle should apply regardless of the date of a conviction.”

Week of September 9th 2013:
Convict calls for life sentence ban

The Boston Globe: In a challenge to the way the state sentences juveniles convicted of murder, a prisoner is asking the state’s highest court to prohibit sentences of life without parole for juveniles as cruel and unusual punishment. The appeal follows a landmark Supreme Court decision last year that held that automatic life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional, citing developmental differences between juveniles and adults. But the lawyer for Kevin Keo, a Lynn man found guilty of a murder committed when he was 16, is asking the Supreme Judicial Court to go a step further and ban life without parole sentences for all juveniles. Click above to read the entire article.

Week of September 2nd 2013:
Mass. High Court Reconsiders Life Without Parole For Juveniles
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

90.9 WBUR: BOSTON — The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is considering whether to eliminate automatic life-without-parole prison sentences for juveniles convicted of murder.Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandating such sentences for young people is unconstitutional (PDF). The high court said there should be individualized hearings so judges can consider the new science about adolescent development as well as any mitigating factors in a juvenile offender’s background. Supporters say Massachusetts now needs to clarify its law, which does mandate such sentences.

They also want the state to decide what would happen to the estimated 62 people now serving life sentences after they were convicted as juveniles.The SJC is considering two cases on this issue. One involves a man who has been in prison for 32 years after being sentenced as a juvenile; the other involves a man, Marquise Brown, who was a juvenile at the time of his crime and has not yet been sentenced. Barbara Kaban, the appellate attorney representing Brown, joined WBUR’s Morning Edition to discuss Wednesday’s arguments.