Alaska Proposal Could Save Juveniles Sentenced to Life

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A proposal by the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission could give juveniles sentenced to life imprisonment or close to it a chance at parole after 15 years, reports the Anchorage Daily News. A handful of people in Alaska prisons are serving sentences of 100 years or more for serious crimes they committed as juveniles but were tried and sentenced for as adults during the “tough on crime” period of the 1980s and 1990s that led to extreme sentences for children that the U.S. Supreme Court has since found to be unconstitutional.

The consideration in Alaska of “second look” laws similar to those passed in states ranging from West Virginia to Utah to California, allowing for a mechanism for cases to be reviewed by the parole board or a judge, comes in response to Supreme Court decisions in the early 2000s that banned life-without-parole sentences for children, reflecting changes in the science around brain development. However, in Alaska, defendants could face staunch resistance from a parole board that denied 77 percent of applications for discretionary parole in 2020.  The board is chaired by the mother of a murdered Alaska community teenager.

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