Connecticut lawmakers must end the disgraceful practice of sentencing children to mandatory life sentences without possibility of parole, said ACLU of Connecticut.

ACLU of Connecticut staff attorney, David McGuire, said, “We can ensure that the criminal justice system accounts for major differences between children and adults without compromising public safety. This bill could also help reduce the stark and deeply disturbing racial disparities among children serving lengthy prison sentences in Connecticut.”

Information provided by the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance reveals that 94 percent of those serving longer than 12 years in prison and 97 percent of those serving longer than 50 years, for crimes committed as children, are African American or Latino. In addition, 100 hundred percent of juvenile offenders serving more than 12 years in cases from New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport are African American or Hispanic, according to the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance.

White young offenders only account for 6 percent of juveniles serving sentences of more than 12 years and 3 percent of those serving more than 50 years, despite the fact that white people make up 71 percent of the state population.

The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for children under the age of 18 at the time of their crime violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Court specifically noted juveniles’ “diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform.” The Court has made unquestionably clear that children are different than adults and that difference must be reflected in how courts sentence children in adult court.

Senate Bill No. 796 aims to bring Connecticut’s sentencing into compliance with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions by providing for a review of sentences for juvenile offenders and establishing guidelines for sentencing of children convicted of certain crimes.

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