A rally at the Capitol today will include groups backing proposed legislation to end life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. The bill, SB 294, will be before a Senate committee Wednesday.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory life-without sentences were unconstitutional and has made the ruling retroactive, but fewer than half of the Arkansas prisoners affected have been re-sentenced, said DecARcerate, a coalition seeking criminal justice system changes.
The bill would provide parole eligibility after 30 years in murder cases and after 20 years in other cases. Said a news release:
The bill acknowledges children’s brains are not fully developed and asks the parole board to consider these differences between children and adults.
The group is participating in Arkansas Citizens First Congress’ legislative advocacy day. On hand for this particular issue will be people from Judicial Equality for Mental Illness (JEMI), Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Inmate Justice Project, Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice Project, the NWA Reentry Coalition, Compassion Works for All, Inc., and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) of Fayetteville.