Work continues on bill banning minors from receiving life sentences

May 13, 2013

Illinois lawmakers continue to negotiate a bill to ban minors from receiving life sentences in prison. It comes nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional. 

About 100 of Illinois’ prison inmates are serving life sentences that they received as juveniles. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, Illinois lawmakers are taking another look at how the state gives out sentences to juveniles.

Jobi Cates is with Human Rights Watch. She says the Supreme Court acknowledged young teens’ minds aren’t fully developed, and they may not understand the consequences of what they’re facing.

“That this young man is going to die in that prison is - it compounds the tragedy of the original crime.”

But State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie says prosecutors and victims’ rights groups worry what a new law would mean to those already sentenced to life without parole.

“But certainly for the families, there’s obviously a concern that what they thought was more or less a done deal could now be re-opened.”

Negotiations over the bill continue this week, but a proposal would allow those facing a long sentence to petition for a hearing after serving 15 years.