Tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will hear proposed legislation to retroactively address juvenile life without parole sentences in Colorado. The proposed sentencing changes are fair and leave opportunity for judicial discretion as well as parole monitoring to insure public safety. It will also bring Colorado into compliance with the US Constitution that has ruled that Juvenile Life Without Parole violates the eighth amendment and is indeed cruel and unusual punishment. An opinion editorial published in the Boulder Daily Camera agrees that the Colorado Legislature must act to correct the unconstitutional sentences of juveniles serving life but at the very end asks if the proposed sentencing range needs adjusting. The citizens of Colorado, the citizens of this country and even congress do not agree with that statement. We all believe that it is time for our government to stop playing politics with "right on crime" agendas and legislate fair and just criminal justice practices and reform our current policies.
Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project gave testimony this week to the Charles Colson Task Force on reducing time served in Federal Prisons. Mr. Mauer has recommended that mandatory minimum sentences, the practice of "stacking" sentences and penalties that exceed 20 years be undone except in extreme circumstances. It would be at the discretion of a judge or parole board to grant release or recommended a longer term behind bars if the offender still poses a risk to the public. Marc's testimony is backed by years of research and study. (read the full report)
"Sentencing policies in the United States are much more punitive than in other modern democracies. This can be seen most dramatically at the extreme end of the sentencing spectrum. The United States is virtually the only industrialized nation that employs the death penalty, with over 3,000 people on death row. Moreover, the nation’s use of life sentences has expanded exponentially in recent decades, with nearly 160,000 people sentenced to life in prison, or one of every nine people in prison. Of this group, almost 50,000 are serving life without parole sentences. Such whole-life sentences are exceedingly rare in other countries. For example, in the United Kingdom, only 49 individuals are serving life sentences with no opportunity for release." That is almost the same number as the juveniles we have serving Life Without The Possibility of Parole in Colorado Alone!
"Such a structure is not as “radical” as one might think. In many democratic nations, sentences of greater than 20 years are quite rare. For example, in Norway, the maximum sentence for any offense is 21 years, with the possibility of civil commitment for public safety reasons following that. Nations such as Germany, France, and Italy have found life sentences to be unconstitutional." Even for the most violent crime, committed by an adult and especially by a juvenile, other countries have found ways to correct the offender and keep the public safe without using life sentences for adults OR juveniles.
If these recommendations are being presented for adults serving federal sentences then we, as the citizens of this state, believe that our young people deserve an even greater opportunity. It is time for our government to stand behind the moral standard of its citizenship and our declaration that we are a nation and state that believes in second chances and fair and just opportunities for all. It is time to pass the proposed legislation as it stands because we, the people of this state want it!
Thank you Rep. Kagan for helping Colorado come into compliance with the US Constitution and thank you advocates for your tireless work.
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