Louisiana was one of 37 states affected by a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision which said that juveniles convicted of crimes not involving murder cannot be imprisoned for life. According to that decision, such inmates are not guaranteed release, but must be offered a meaningful opportunity for release.
Ten Jefferson Parish individuals sentenced to life in prison for crimes they committed as juveniles are currently eligible for parole under this law. One of them, now a 28 year old who has already served 12 years, was told earlier this month that he must wait 17 more years before he can apply for parole. He was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and armed robbery and sentenced in 2000 to life in prison without chance of parole.
According to the Louisiana state Department of Corrections, 48 inmates across Louisiana are currently serving life sentences for crimes other than homicide which they committed prior to turning 18. Many of them are hoping for a second chance.
Louisiana legislators have considered a proposal that would have allowed these inmates parole eligibility after 35 years, but that measure was eventually rejected. Last November, the state’s high court issued an interim decision ruling that these offenders are eligible for parole when they reach age 45 and have served 20 years of their sentence. Lawmakers may be reconsidering the issue this year.
According to sources, the Louisiana District Attorneys Association will be requesting that the Legislature make these inmates eligible for parole at age 60 and when they have served 45 years of their sentence.
It isn’t clear exactly what will come out of the deliberations on this issue. What seems clear is that those who commit crimes as juveniles can and do change, and deserve a second chance.
Source: nola.com, “Louisiana grapples with juvenile crime decision by Supreme Court,” Paul Purpura, January 22, 2012.