Colorado prosecutors say that they are willing to discuss changes to harsh juvenile sentencing laws as long as changes wouldn’t alter punishments for inmates now serving life without parole for crimes they committed as teens, the Denver Post reports. The offer from the Colorado District Attorney’s Council came as a House committee approved a bill that would require parole hearings after 40 years for juveniles convicted as adults of committing murders.
Rep. Lynn Hefley had asked whether justice had been served by allowing Colorado DAs to file charges against juveniles in 1,244 cases since 1998; by slicing millions of dollars from juvenile rehabilitation programs, and by bringing a disproportionate number of felony murder charges, which require a lower standard of proof, against youths when compared with adults. She said her bill would take into account scientific research that shows physiological differences make teens more likely to make bad judgments than adult killers. Psychiatrist Jerry Yager of the Denver Children’s Home implored lawmakers to consider that juvenile brains aren’t fully developed. He said juveniles should be eligible for rehabilitation instead of a prison environment that can shape them into harder criminals.