Massachusetts Strike Down Mandatory Life Sentences for Juveniles by Jason E Lau
Last year, the Massachusetts supreme judicial court made a landmark decision that will not only affect the lives of countless young offenders in their state, but also the lives of those across the country. In December 2013, the supreme judicial court struck down the mandatory life sentencing of juveniles; meaning that juveniles are no longer allowed to serve life sentences without parole hearings. The courts based their decision on the fact that the brains of youth are not fully matured and developed, so it would be wrong to imprison juveniles with life sentences based on these decisions and mistakes. This decision followed courts’ the 2012 ruling in Miller vs. Alabama, where judges were given greater authority to consider mitigating factors with regards to juvenile life sentences.
The courts want to give juveniles an opportunity at a second chance. They understand that as adolescent youth, one could easily make mistakes and should be given a chance to re-evaluate their case in a parole hearing. If the inmates were to be granted parole, they would be moved into a minimum-security facility and would be eligible for release in roughly two years.
Two individuals, who are currently serving these life sentences since the age of 17 for felony murder charges, Joseph Donovan and Frederick Christian respective, have finally been given a chance at receiving a parole hearing. There are currently over 2,500 individuals serving life sentences without parole across the United States, with 63 in the state of Massachusetts. Joseph Donovan and Frederick Christian, two young adults who have been serving life sentences for felony murder charges since the age of 17, have finally been given a chance at receiving a parole hearing. The decision of the Massachusetts supreme judicial court will greatly affect the landscape of the judicial process across America for years to come.