Juvenile lifers could get a 2nd chance
Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
Pennsylvania has more juvenile lifers than any other state. The term refers to convicts serving life without parole for crimes committed in their teens. State lawmakers who want to change that held a hearing this morning.
Some of Pennsylvania's juvenile lifers have been serving time since the 1950's. State law imposes a mandatory life-without-parole if a juvenile is convicted of murder in the first or second degree. That means, some teenagers got a life sentence without pulling the trigger.
State Representative Kenyatta Johnson introduced a bill that would allow juveniles sentenced to life-without-parole to get a parole hearing after 15 years in prison.
Drexel University professor Julia Hall testified in favor of the bill.
"It's not that Representative Kenyatta's bill is giving anyone an EZ-pass to get out of jail. If they have an opportunity for review they're going to have to prove to the paroling authority that they are capable of handling themselves."
Hall told the Judiciary Committee that teens' brains have not developed well enough to foresee consequences of their actions and that time in prison often leads to remorse and rehabilitation.
But victims of teen violence testified against the bill, saying some "bad seeds" who commit heinous murders are genetically prone to criminal behavior and should never be given the chance to get out of jail.