Don’t lock up Tennessee youth for life

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Under current Tennessee law, children under the age of 18 can receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole until they have served at least 51 years – essentially a life sentence. For many children caught up in the criminal justice system in our state, that means that one bad decision can result in their entire future getting swept away forever.

SB 197/HB 274, sponsored by Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and Rep. Raumesh Akbari, would change that, making such juveniles eligible for parole after they have served 30 years instead of 51.

This legislation impacts sentencing by recognizing the ways that children may fail to consider long-term consequences, control their emotions and behavior, or ignore peer influence.

It also ensures that juvenile offenders will be able to participate in educational, vocational and other prison programs that help prepare them to become productive members of society one day.

Tennessee’s law requiring juvenile offenders to serve 51 years before becoming parole eligible essentially locks young people up for life. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles are unconstitutional because juvenile offenders are significantly different from adult offenders and should be treated accordingly. Juvenile brains are not fully developed and teens have a greater capacity to rehabilitate than adults.
It also costs Tennessee taxpayers approximately $1.43 million to house just one juvenile serving a life sentence of 51+ years — money that could go instead to resources like education, healthcare and infrastructure.
2018-02-26T15:38:37-06:00 February 26th, 2018|Categories: Take Action|