Fisher Law Office

New hope for inmates serving life behind bars for juvenile offenses

Various studies have shown that the brains of juveniles are still maturing. According to the American Psychological Association, their reasoning and judgment doesn't even fully develop until their early to mid 20's.

So it's safe to say that many teens are likely to commit indiscretions-even break the law. Some argue that juveniles should never be required to spend the rest of their lives behind bars paying for mistakes they committed at such a young age-regardless of the crime.

And, in a recently released opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.

The case involved a man who shot and killed a sheriff's deputy in 1963 when he was just 17 years old. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Today, 50 years later, he is still behind bars.

In 2012, the court struck down a law allowing automatic life sentences with no chance of parole for those who commit serious crimes as teens.

Monday's SCOTUS opinion extended this 2012 ruling.

The opinion made it clear that the law will now be applied retroactively to inmates currently behind bars for committing crimes during their juvenile years.

Now, those handed down life sentences for offenses committed as teenagers will get a second change on life. They will either receive a new sentence or a parole hearing to show redemption.

In the opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that prisoners should be "given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored."

Presently, there are over 1,000 prison inmates who are serving life in prison for crimes they committed as juveniles. The recent decision no doubt provides hope for many who, in some instances, have been behind bars for 50 years.

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