For more than 20 years, state legislatures have come down increasingly hard on criminal minors, insisting that they do “adult time for adult crimes.” Some states are starting to rethink that approach, says National Public Radio. Texas last year prohibited juveniles who have not committed murder from being sentenced to life without any chance of parole, well before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such sentences unconstitutional on Monday.
“In many cases, we believe in second chances for kids,” says Jerry Madden, a Texas state representative. “There’s still a chance to work with juveniles.” Colorado has eliminated sentences of life without parole for juveniles, although it still allows mandatory minimum sentences of up to 40 years. This year, Connecticut ended its policy of treating all offenders 16 and older as adults. There has not been a wholesale shift away from treating violent youths as adults. “When you’re talking about extremely dangerous violent offenses committed by older teens, there’s a general trend to treat them as adults in America,” says Joshua Marquis, district attorney in Clatsop County, Or. Marquis doesn’t think the Supreme Court’s ruling will change that. He says prosecutors “are not terribly disappointed in this decision” because it is fairly limited in scope.