Clemency Board Created For Colorado Youth Offenders


In the first initiative of its kind nationally, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has created an executive clemency board exclusively for youth offenders, reports the Denvere Post. The board would provide a possible way out of adult prison for teens currently serving life-without-parole sentences. The former Denver district attorney established a seven-seat advisory board that will include members of his cabinet, experts in juvenile-justice issues, two psychologists and a Denver judge, among others. “It appeared to me to be the right process to put in place” to serve the interest of justice, Ritter said. “There’s a body of evidence that shows kids are very different than adults.”

State Rep. Cheri Jahn helped develop the concept with Ritter. She characterized the advisory board as a cease-fire of sorts between state prosecutors and lawmakers who decided to back off a potentially bitter battle to eradicate life-without- parole sentences for at least 45 current juvenile offenders. Jahn said the clemency board “is a big step, and the governor should be applauded for taking it,” adding that juveniles’ premature brain development warrants special attention. “It’s important that we have juvenile experts involved. This is a governor who, unlike some DAs, doesn’t just see everything as black and white.” Ritter said the move helps sidestep issues that could have proven divisive in the legislature. “I don’t know of any state that has retooled its clemency process for juveniles to recognize their rehabilitative potential,” said Alison Parker of New York-based Human Rights Watch. “This is an excellent way to approach the issue. Juveniles are different kinds of human beings with the capacity to grow and change.”


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