The highest court of this nation ruled that life without parole sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional FOUR years ago for those who did not kill anyone and TWO years ago for those who committed murder yet Colorado has chosen not to address this issue. While Colorado changed the sentence that could be applied (future cases) to these crimes (40 years to life,) the mandatory sentencing structure is still viewed as unconstitutional according the the nation's high court ruling because it does not allow the sentencing court to evaluate and sentence individuals based on age, mental capacity, circumstance or other mitigating factors. Colorado continues to keep felony murder laws on the books, a law that can require a sentencing judge to impose life without parole sentences on a juvenile who was only present or knew of the crime before or after the crime was committed.
Legislation that was to address life without parole for juveniles currently serving these sentences and for those serving functional life sentences will not be introduced this term. Instead the legislators have chosen to wait and see what the Colorado Supreme court has to say on the issue. Those rulings are expected this fall.
Colorado is not the only state in this nation that has not moved to reverse the unconstitutional practice of JLWOP, there are many others. This means that there are states all across this country who are choosing to operate outside of the nation's constitution. They are choosing to break the law and they are not being held accountable while juveniles are serving illegal prison sentences in adult prisons.
There are those trailblazers that have moved to change their sentencing structure and give those who are currently serving these unconstitutional sentences a chance at parole. Washington state, West Virginia, California, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Illinois and Texas have all determined that life without parole sentences are not only illegal but that these rulings apply retroactively and have given guidelines for the parole review and release of juveniles serving life sentences. Colorado has chosen not to be among them.
In addition the UN Council released a scathing report on the human rights abuses that currently happen in the United States with the life sentences imposed on a child topping the list as well as the mass incarceration practices of this nation.
This time of year, around the world, there will be religious celebrations of redemption, of freedom from slavery and oppression and the possibility of being given the chance to start again in a new land, start again with a clean slate. These tenets of faith, whether Christian or Jewish, were meant for everyone. So we must ask ourselves when it became acceptable to throw away a life? God Cries When We Sentence Youth To Die In Prison.
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