Maryland Ban on Life Without Parole for Juveniles Affects 400 Cases

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A new bill, passed over Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto, banning life without the possibility of parole for people convicted of crimes that occurred when they were children will affect more than 400 people immediately eligible for resentencing, over 85 percent of whom are Black, reports The Appeal. Maryland is the 25th state, in addition to Washington, D.C., to bar these sentences. Hogan’s veto was overridden Saturday.

Senate Bill 494, known as the Juvenile Restoration Act, allows anyone who has served at least 20 years for a crime that occurred when they were a minor to petition the court for a sentence reduction, including if they were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In Maryland, nearly 50 people were serving a juvenile life without the possibility of parole sentence as of December, but the law’s impact extends to hundreds of others who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms or life with parole. The bill does not guarantee release for people convicted of crimes that occurred when they were under the age of 18. Of the more than 400 people immediately eligible for resentencing, over 85 percent are Black. The United States is the only country that sentences children to life without the possibility of parole, according to the Sentencing Project. At the start of 2020, approximately 1,400 people were serving life without the possibility of parole for crimes that occurred when they were children.

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