Rhode Island is set to vote on legislation today that would allow people who were sentenced to life as minors, to qualify for parole after serving 15 years of their sentence.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, This legislation aims to address the long sentences of juveniles who are charged as adults. As the U.S. Supreme Court has previously noted, adolescence is marked by ‘transient rashness, proclivity for risk, and inability to assess consequences.' Yet many who commit their crimes as children are viewed as incapable of rehabilitation, and incarcerated long into their adulthood. Under the proposed legislation, juveniles who are sentenced as adults would automatically come before the parole board after fifteen years, regardless of the length of their sentence, giving these young adults the chance to prove their fitness to return to society.
The ACLU testified in support of this legislation.
The Attorney General of Rhode Island opposes the bill because it takes away a “tool” that prosecutors can use against a violent offender. Their press office cited how murderer, Craig Price, committed his first killing when he was 13 years old and went on to kill 4 people in total, before he was tried and convicted as a minor. Due to the brutality of Price's crimes, many groups petitioned to keep him imprisoned. The case led to changes in state law to allow juveniles to be tried as adults for serious crimes.
Rhode Island has never tried to sentence a minor to life without parole, but if the bill passes, a criminal can petition for parole after 15 year no matter how violent the crime. The Attorney General's office was quoted as saying, “Don’t take away this tool, we don’t want to go back to a Craig Price era.”
There are currently nine inmates serving lengthy sentences for juvenile crimes who could be affected if this bill passes.
Update: Vote was delayed to next week - check back for the outcome.
The Associated Press Contributed to this Article
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