Wednesday, November 29, 2017
This is the first in a series of posts on the "51-To-Life" Project. In Tennessee, if a juvenile is convicted of first-degree murder, there are two sentencing options: (1) life without the possibility of parole; or (2) life with the possibility of parole, with that possibility only existing after the juvenile has been incarcerated for 51 years. In this post, I will explain why Alabama treats juvenile homicide offenders better than Tennessee.
Alabama is the home to Miller v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court case which held that "mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishments." Since that opinion, Alabama still allows for juveniles homicide offenders to be given life without parole sentences, albeit after individualized sentencing hearings.
As of last year, the second sentencing option for juvenile homicide offenders is life with the possibility of parole, with that possibility being triggered after the offender has served 30 years in prison.
In coming up with the time period of 30 years for first chance at parole, [State Representative Jim] Hill said it falls within the range of what other states have done. "It's not the most harsh nor the most lenient," he said.
Alabama's life with the possibility of parole sentence is thus significantly more favorable to juvenile homicide offenders than Tennessee's law, which requires offenders to serve 51 years before being eligible for parole.