In January 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that said juvenile offenders should not be sentenced to mandatory life without parole because they are prone to manipulation, are less mature and are capable of change. The court found that most juvenile lifers need a chance to argue that they should be released. Dozens sentenced to mandatory life without parole have been released after resentencing.

Life without Parole Sentences for Juveniles Being Challenged

About 7,300 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life without parole are filing legal challenges. According to The Sentencing Project, “The Supreme Court was very clear to say that age-related factors need to be considered at resentencing or parole review, but the feedback we're seeing is that those factors aren't being considered."

Many state courts have ruled on cases where a life without parole sentence was part of a plea deal or wasn’t mandatory. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that resentencing was needed for two former juvenile offenders. One had a sentence of 110 years and was eligible for parole after 55 years. The other was serving 75 years and was eligible for parole after 68 years. The court noted that these offenders would “likely serve more time in jail than an adult sentenced to actual life without parole.”

Parole Boards Still Saying No

In Michigan, an inmate, who is now 63, was convicted at 17 of killing a store clerk during a robbery. He was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 10 years. He’s been denied parole five times. The man told The Associated Press, “I am not that same 17-year-old kid. I will never commit another crime again. I caused a terrible tragedy for which I will always be sorry and shameful. What more can I say to the family? I have been here for almost a half of a century, and the parole board is still saying no."

More challenges have been filed in Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina and other states. In Maryland, an inmate was released after convincing a judge to reopen his case. He argued that the state’s system didn’t give him a real chance at parole and should be ruled unconstitutional. He was released on probation in April 2016 after spending 34 years in prison.

Were You Sentenced to Life Without Parole as a Juvenile?

If you or a loved one was sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile offender, you should have a chance at resentencing. An experienced, local attorney can provide more information.