Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Juvenile Life Sentences Without Parole Abolished

Hawaii has taken a step towards recognizing that juveniles are constitutionally different from adults and that these differences should be taken into account when children are sentenced for adult crimes. Signed into law today by Governor Neil Abercrombie, HB2116 eliminates the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.

“Hawaii is one of a shrinking number of states that still allows life sentencing without parole for juvenile offenders,” said the bill’s introducer Representative Karen Awana (Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili). “In addition, it has been uniformly rejected by the international community and it’s time we remove this law from our books. Right now the United States is the only nation in the world that allows children to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.”

Hawaii’s current law establishes that persons who are convicted of first degree murder or first degree attempted murder are to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole—regardless of age. The changes to the law would maintain a mandatory life sentence for those above eighteen years old, but would sentence persons under the age of eighteen years old at the time of the offense to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.

According to The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, a national advocacy group, Hawaii now joins numerous other states who have eliminated or do not allow juvenile life without parole sentences. Such states include Texas, Wyoming, Kentucky, Kansas, Colorado, Montana, and Alaska. Additionally, other states have created measures to provide youths convicted of violent crimes an opportunity for resentencing later in life.

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