Current Legislation

This is a list of current pending legislation regarding life sentences for juveniles. Please contact novjmlegislation@gmail.com for more.

Note to legislators

When it comes to the public policy debate on life without parole (LWOP) for juveniles, victims really are underdogs–whereas the advocates of freeing our loved ones’ killers have vast financial resources, we have no funding, and very little power. Despite this, victims would like to be heard. And we have a right to be heard. The issue of juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) significantly impacts us. If JLWOP is retroactively abolished in our states, we may be forced to endure re-sentencing hearings. If the criminals who murdered our family members are given sentences that allow for parole, we would have to endure parole hearings. Many victims have already been through these painful hearings. Given the fact that legal changes regarding JLWOP impact our lives in such a powerful way, it is only right that our voices be considered. This includes victims who oppose and support JLWOP. Victims have already endured a lot of trauma due to the murders of their family members and many of these proposed legal changes would only add to that pain. We ask that lawmakers, voters, and activists please listen to our concerns.

Victims willing to speak out, as well as legal experts, are listed in our Speakers Bureau. Please contact them to ask about proposed laws.

Please consider victims in your state. Read our memorials for them. Imagine how you would feel about the proposed laws if your child, spouse, parent, sibling, or other family member was murdered in the way they were. Consider the impact the laws would have on these surviving victims.

Please consider the possible dangers of releasing some offenders into society. Many juvenile criminals who were released early have gone on to commit more crimes.

Currently, the debate regarding JLWOP is very one-sided, as advocates of abolishing JLWOP have significant resources and power. To learn about the arguments for JLWOP, the arguments that are not often heard, read this article. It was written by a volunteer and expresses her views.

You may also consider reading this article, also written by a volunteer, which examines the narrative on juvenile culpability.

Please look through our website for more.

Legislation

MASSACHUSETTS

MA H 1439

Text

Section 72B. If a person is found guilty of murder in the first degree committed on or after his sixteenth birthday and before his nineteenth birthday under the provisions of section 1 of chapter 265, the superior court shall commit the person to such punishment as is provided by law for the offense. Said person shall be afforded a meaningful opportunity to obtain release on parole based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation and in accordance with the provisions of law governing the granting of parole permits by the parole board.

If a person is found guilty of murder in the second degree committed on or after his sixteenth birthday and before his nineteenth birthday under the provisions of section 1 of chapter 265, the superior court shall commit the person to such punishment as is provided by law. Said person shall be eligible for parole under section 133A of chapter 127 when such person has served 15 years of said confinement. Said person shall be afforded a meaningful opportunity to obtain release on parole based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation and in accordance with the provisions of law governing the granting of parole permits by the parole board.

MISSOURI

House Bill 2201

https://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills201/hlrbillspdf/4778H.01I.pdf

What it would do

Currently, juvenile murderers in MO can submit a petition to the parole board after 25 years of incarceration, and another petition after 35 years. This bill would allow juvenile offenders to submit a petition to the parole board after 15 years. They would be eligible for reconsideration hearings every three years after that.

Text

Proposed language in bold. Text in brackets is proposed to be removed from the law.

Any person sentenced to a term of imprisonment for life with or
without eligibility for parole [before August 28, 2016], a term of imprisonment amounting to fifteen years or more, or multiple terms of imprisonment that, taken together, amount to fifteen or more years who was under eighteen years of age at the time of the commission of the offense or offenses[,] may submit to the parole board a petition for a review of his or her sentence, regardless of whether the case is final for purposes of appeal, after serving [twenty-five] fifteen years of incarceration [on the sentence of life without parole] and shall thereafter be eligible for reconsideration hearings every three years until a presumptive release date has been established by the parole board.

[(2) Any person found guilty of murder in the first degree who was sentenced on or after
August 28, 2016, to a term of life imprisonment with eligibility for parole or a term of
imprisonment of not less than thirty years and not to exceed forty years, who was under eighteen years of age at the time of the commission of the offense or offenses may submit to the parole board a petition for a review of his or her sentence, regardless of whether the case is final for purposes of appeal, after serving twenty-five years of incarceration, and a subsequent petition after serving thirty-five years of incarceration.]

Status

In the Senate Judiciary Committee.

What you can do

Write to members of the Judiciary Committee.

NEBRASKA

NE L 1117

What it would do

It wold prohibit anyone under 21 from being sentenced to LWOP. It would also change the available sentences for offenders under 21 who commit IA and IB felonies. IA felonies include murder, arson, and kidnapping. IB felonies include manslaughter, aggravated assault, burglary, and sexual assault of a child in the first degree.

Text

Bold text means proposed added language. Brackets mean the bill proposes to omit that language.

28-105.01 (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the death penalty or life imprisonment shall not be imposed upon any person who was under the age of twenty-one [eighteen] years at the time of the commission of the crime.

28-105.02 (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the penalty for any person convicted of a Class IA felony for an offense committed when such person was under the age of twenty-one [eighteen] years shall be a maximum sentence of not greater than eighty years’ imprisonment [life imprisonment] and a minimum sentence of not greater [less] than forty years’ imprisonment.

(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the penalty for any person convicted of a Class IB felony for an offense committed when such person was under the age of twenty-one years shall be a maximum sentence of not greater than sixty years’ imprisonment and a minimum sentence of not greater than twenty years’ imprisonment, except as provided in section 28-319.01.

Status

In the Judiciary Committee.

https://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/view_bill.php?DocumentID=41251

What you can do

Write to the Judiciary Committee.

NE L 132

https://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/Intro/LB132.pdf

http://custom.statenet.com/public/resources.cgi?id=ID:bill:NE2019000L132&ciq=ncsl53&client_md=b916e62a9d563fcb1189b8cfdb9739e1&mode=current_text

What it would do

It would change the penalties for crimes committed by offenders under 19 years of age.

Text

(4) The minimum term of imprisonment for any person convicted of a Class IC or Class ID felony for an offense committed when such person was under nineteen years of age shall not be a mandatory minimum but a minimum term only.

Status

https://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/view_bill.php?DocumentID=36924

OHIO

Senate Bill 256

What it would do

SB 256 would allow juvenile criminals to be released after 18-30 years depending on their crimes.

NOVJM has a separate page on this bill. It is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

OKLAHOMA

SB 112

What it would have done

It would have prohibited juveniles from receiving LWOP sentences or any mandatory minimum sentences carrying a term of imprisonment over 20 years. It would also have required courts to consider certain factors.

Text

A. The following sentences shall not be imposed on any person who was less than eighteen (18) years of age at the time the criminal offense was committed:

1. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole; or

2. A mandatory minimum sentence carrying a term of imprisonment that exceeds twenty (20) years.

B. In addition to other factors required by law to be considered prior to imposition of a sentence, when determining the appropriate sentence for a person who has been certified as an adult pursuant to certification procedures authorized in the Oklahoma Juvenile Code and who has been subsequently tried and convicted of a felony offense as an adult, the court shall consider the following mitigating circumstances:

1. Age at the time of the offense;

2. Level of maturity and the ability to appreciate the risks and consequences of the conduct;

3. Culpability;

4. Family and community environment;

5. Intellectual capacity;

6. Peer or familial pressure;

7. Ability to participate meaningfully in his or her defense;

8. Capacity for rehabilitation;

9. School records and special education evaluations;

10. Trauma history;

11. Community involvement;

12. Involvement in the child welfare system; and

13. Any other mitigating factors or circumstances.

Status

Died in the chamber. Title stricken.

What you can do

Should a similar bill be introduced, you can write to the Senate Judiciary Committee or the House Judiciary Committee.

SOUTH CAROLINA

House Bill 3919

What it would do

It would retroactively end LWOP for criminals under 18. Juveniles who commit or have committed non-homicide crimes would be eligible for parole after 20 years. Juveniles who commit or have committed homicides would be eligible for parole after 25 years.

Text

“Section 17-25-35.    (A)    Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a court may not sentence a person to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if the person was less than eighteen years of age at the time of committing the offense. This subsection applies retroactively to a person whose offense was committed before the person was eighteen years of age, regardless of the original sentences that were imposed.

Section 17-25-40.    (A)    A person who was convicted and sentenced for an offense committed before the person was eighteen years of age and in which the death of another person did not occur, and that was committed before, on, or after the effective date of this act is eligible for release on parole no later than after twenty years of incarceration, including any applicable sentencing enhancements, and including an instance in which multiple sentences are to be served consecutively or concurrently, unless by law the person is eligible for earlier parole.

(B)    A person who was convicted and sentenced for an offense committed before the person was eighteen years of age, in which the death of another person occurred, and that was committed before, on, or after the effective date of this act is eligible for release on parole no later than after twenty-five years of incarceration, including any applicable sentencing enhancements, unless by law the person is eligible for earlier parole.

Status

In the House Judiciary Committee.

What you can do

Write to members of the House Judiciary Committee.

Letter to S.C lawmakers

I am writing on behalf of the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers (NOVJM). NOVJM is dedicated to helping those whose family members were murdered by juveniles under 18. We represent hundreds of victims’ families around the country who have lost loved ones to juvenile murderers. NOVJM does not take positions on how specific offenders should be sentenced. We support the victims’ families voices. But we do believe that justice is best served by giving courts the most sentencing options possible to deal with the wide range of offenders and crimes that they face, up to and including life sentences. A wider range of sentencing options prioritizes public safety against offenders who may always remain dangerous, as psychologically we do see sometimes. 

And the availability of longer sentences, where appropriate, allows victims’ families to experience some sense of justice and a sense of legal finality, especially when the sentencing options keep frequent re-traumatizing parole hearings to an absolute minimum. Victims’ families suffer staggering life and health problems when having to re-engage with those who murdered their loved ones.

NOVJM opposes HB 3919 because it would unnecessarily re-traumatize victims. Victims would be forced to endure agonizing parole hearings. Furthermore, because of the bill’s retroactivity, many victims were never planning on or building these parole hearings into their lives, increasing the traumatic impact. Victims often walk away from long term and life sentences given to their loved ones’ murderers believing that their ordeals with the criminal justice system are largely over. They do not make the preparations necessary for parole hearings. They often don’t even register for victim notification, and then become lost to the record keeping of the court. We believe that retroactively reducing criminal sentences raises serious legal issues with regards to Victims’ Rights.

Additionally, there is the issue of fairness. There are some crimes committed by juveniles that may warrant long term or life sentences due to the extreme depravity and cruelty involved. Examples of such crimes are listed on our website. 

And finally, there is the issue of safety. Unfortunately, there are some people who, for whatever reason, will always pose a risk to society. Some are diagnosed psychopaths or sociopaths. Psychopathy and sociopathy are incurable conditions characterized by a lack of remorse or empathy. Some of these offenders have been sentenced for crimes they committed when they were under 18. In many cases, offenders have been released early only to commit more crimes. Some of these cases are documented on our website as well. http://www.teenkillers.org/index.php/myths-about-the-juvenile-life-sentence/dangerous-early-release/   

Thank you for considering NOVJM’s opposition to HB 3919. We respectfully ask that it not be made law. We have never ceased to be horrified by the amount of money and the huge advocacy effort that is being put into changing teen killers’ sentences with NO effort to talk about or plan for how murder victims’ families, who have already had to endure the worst experience of anyone’s lifetime, will cope. We are shocked by the fact that advocates of juvenile murderers leave us out in regards to legislation that will profoundly affect our well-being and lives for decades to come. We stand ready to offer victim family testimony, research from the scientific community, and strategies that have worked well to balance the concerns of criminal justice reform with those of public safety and victim re-traumatization. We deeply appreciate your consideration of the needs of the victims’ families in at least EQUAL force that you consider the requirements of justice for those who killed our loved ones.

TENNESSEE

House Bill 842

What it would do

It would prohibit LWOP for juvenile criminals and allow them to be paroled after 30 years, or, if they meet certain criteria, after 20 years.

Text

(A) If a person is sentenced for commission of crimes committed when
the person was less than eighteen (18) years of age, the person’s first release
eligibility date for those crimes shall occur after service of thirty (30) calendar
years if the release eligibility date for the sentence or sentences imposed is
greater than thirty (30) years from the date of sentencing, regardless of whether
the sentences were ordered to run consecutively or concurrently.
(B) In determining whether to grant parole to a person under subdivision
(v)(1)(A), in addition to general parole factors, the parole board shall consider
factors related to youth, including, but not limited to:
(i) The reduced ability of youth to fully understand the risks and
consequences of their actions;
(ii) Lowered impulse control during youth;
(iii) The role of peer pressure or adult coercion in the commission
of the offense;
SB0842
003240
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(iv) The effects of trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and
environmental factors beyond the youth’s control; and
(v) The amenability of youthful offenders to rehabilitation as a
result of maturity and brain development.
(C) This subdivision (v)(1) does not apply to persons sentenced to life
without the possibility of parole.

The sentence or sentences of a person described in subdivision (v)(1) must
be reduced by any sentence reduction credits earned and retained and credit for any
time served in a county jail or juvenile facility but in no event shall these credits operate
to make the person eligible for release prior to service of thirty (30) calendar years.
(3) It is the intent of the general assembly that subdivisions (v)(1) and (2) are to
be retroactive and apply to a person described in subdivision (v)(1) whether the crime
was committed prior to July 1, 2019, or on or after July 1, 2019.
(w)
(1) Notwithstanding this section, a person who meets the criteria in subsection
(v) shall be eligible for a parole grant hearing and parole after service of at least twenty
(20) calendar years if the board of parole finds that the individual:
(A) Has obtained a HiSET(R) credential, as defined in § 49-4-902, unless
the person has previously obtained a high school diploma or is deemed by a
certified educator as being incapable of obtaining a HiSET(R) credential due to a
learning disability. If the person is deemed incapable of obtaining a HiSET(R)
credential, the person shall show that the person has participated in other
available educational or skill building programs;
(B) Has participated in one (1) or more job training programs, if available
to the person;
(C) Has demonstrated positive work habits and good behavior;

  • 3 – 003240
    (D) Has complied with treatment and rehabilitation services
    recommended by the department of correction; and
    (E) Has provided proof of good character, rehabilitation, and maturity.
    (2) The board of parole shall promulgate rules pursuant to the Uniform
    Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5, to establish the application
    and review process to determine if the criteria for an early parole grant hearing and
    parole have been met.

Status

In the Senate Judiciary Committee.

What you can do

Write to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 876

What it would do

It would prohibit LWOP for juvenile criminals and allow parole eligibility after 30 years, or, if certain criteria are met, after 20 years.

Text

(A) If a person is sentenced for commission of crimes committed when the person was less than eighteen (18) years of age, the person’s first release eligibility date for those crimes shall occur after service of thirty (30) calendar years if the release eligibility date for the sentence or sentences imposed is greater than thirty (30) years from the date of sentencing, regardless of whether the sentences were ordered to run consecutively or concurrently.

(B) In determining whether to grant parole to a person under subdivision (v)(1)(A), in addition to general parole factors, the parole board shall consider factors related to youth, including, but not limited to:

(i) The reduced ability of youth to fully understand the risks and consequences of their actions;

(ii) Lowered impulse control during youth;

(iii) The role of peer pressure or adult coercion in the commission of the offense;

(iv) The effects of trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and environmental factors beyond the youth’s control; and

(v) The amenability of youthful offenders to rehabilitation as a result of maturity and brain development.

(C) This subdivision (v)(1) does not apply to persons sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

(2) The sentence or sentences of a person described in subdivision (v)(1) must be reduced by any sentence reduction credits earned and retained and credit for any time served in a county jail or juvenile facility but in no event shall these credits operate to make the person eligible for release prior to service of thirty (30) calendar years.

(3) It is the intent of the general assembly that subdivisions (v)(1) and (2) are to be retroactive and apply to a person described in subdivision (v)(1) whether the crime was committed prior to July 1, 2019, or on or after July 1, 2019.

(w)

(1) Notwithstanding this section, a person who meets the criteria in subsection (v) shall be eligible for a parole grant hearing and parole after service of at least twenty (20) calendar years if the board of parole finds that the individual:

(A) Has obtained a HiSET(R) credential, as defined in § 49-4-902, unless the person has previously obtained a high school diploma or is deemed by a certified educator as being incapable of obtaining a HiSET(R) credential due to a learning disability. If the person is deemed incapable of obtaining a HiSET(R) credential, the person shall show that the person has participated in other available educational or skill building programs;

(B) Has participated in one (1) or more job training programs, if available to the person;

(C) Has demonstrated positive work habits and good behavior;

(D) Has complied with treatment and rehabilitation services recommended by the department of correction; and

(E) Has provided proof of good character, rehabilitation, and maturity.

(2) The board of parole shall promulgate rules pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5, to establish the application and review process to determine if the criteria for an early parole grant hearing and parole have been met.

Status

In the Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee.

What you can do

Write to the Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee.

WISCONSIN

2019 Assembly Bill 775

What it would have done

It would have prohibited “youthful offenders” under 18 from receiving LWOP. It also would have added new factors to be considers during sentencing.

Text

302.113 (1) An inmate is subject to this section if he or she is serving a bifurcated sentence imposed under s. 973.01 or, if the inmate is a youthful offender, as defined in s. 973.014 (3) (a), a life sentence imposed under s. 973.014 (3) (b) or (c) or, if the youthful offender is sentenced before the effective date of this subsection…. [LRB inserts date], s. 973.014 (1g).

Section 19. 973.018 of the statutes is created to read:6973.018Sentence adjustment for youthful offenders.(1) Definition. In
7this section, “youthful offender” has the meaning given in s. 973.014 (3) (a).8(2) Sentence adjustment; factors. A court may reduce a term of
9imprisonment, including life imprisonment under s. 973.014 (3), for a youthful
10offender who has served 15 years of his or her term of imprisonment if the court finds
11that the interests of justice warrant a reduction. In making its determination, the
12court shall consider all of the following:13(a) The sentencing factors set forth in ss. 973.014 (3) (e) and 973.017 (2c).14(b) The youthful offender’s subsequent growth, behavior, and rehabilitation
15while incarcerated.16(3) Petition for sentence adjustment. (a) One year before the youthful
17offender becomes eligible for a sentence adjustment under this section, the
18department shall provide written notice of the eligibility to the qualifying youthful
19offender, the sentencing court, the district attorney for the county in which the
20youthful offender was sentenced, and the state public defender. Notice under this
21paragraph shall include notice of the youthful offender’s right to counsel and notice
22that if the youthful offender believes that he or she cannot afford an attorney, the
23youthful offender may ask the state public defender to represent him or her.

Status

Failed to pass pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution.

What you can do

Should it be re-introduced, write to members of the Assembly Committee or the Senate Committee it is sent to.