States Watch Pennsylvania for Guidance on Juvenile Lifer Dilemma


More than two dozen states are facing a legal dilemma after the Supreme Court’s ruling in June that life sentences for those under 18 is unconstitutional. Many are watching Pennsylvania for guidance, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center estimates there are about 470 inmates in Pennsylvania serving life sentences for crimes they committed before their 18th birthday, more than any state in the nation.

Pennsylvania faces perhaps the most complicated and difficult challenge, with so many cases at stake and with an inflexible sentencing scheme that seems unworkable. As the first state to take up the issue in its high court and because of the volume of cases, it’s being watched nationally. “There’s no question that Pennsylvania is a significant center of attention,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project. What happens in the state, he said, could be a harbinger for how the issue plays out elsewhere.

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