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Ex-offenders, victims debate juvenile parole

For those convicted of a juvenile crime, the consequences can be often no less severe than adult sentencing. Serious fines and incarceration can come as a result of a "guilty" verdict, at times steep enough to completely derail the life of a young person before they even arrive at adulthood.

Now, however, some Connecticut officials are re-considering the state's strictest punishments for minors, giving special attention to the argument some ex-offenders are making for early parole. If approved and enacted, these measures would offer those imprisoned for juvenile crime the chance to restart their lives and put their past troubles behind them.

The change became the subject of heated debate late last month. One Norwich man, who lost two loved ones to a teenager in a double murder case, tried to persuade officials on the Connecticut Sentencing Commission that the early probation measures would be unjust toward victims and their families.

United States Supreme Court rulings have specified that juveniles are not to receive punishment as harsh as that doled out to adults. In spite of this, the laws currently on the books in Connecticut rule out parole for some juvenile cases. Those in support of early parole for minors under the age of 18, or those who committed their crimes while under 18, cite the Supreme Court's precedent as impetus for changing the state's incarceration practices.

The early parole debate is evident of shifting, more comprehensive approaches to juvenile crime and punishment in Connecticut. However, strict sentencing is still standard practice for minors found guilty of criminal offenses. Working with a strong juvenile defense lawyer can help build a strong case, bettering the chance of a "not guilty" verdict and avoiding the need for parole all together.

Source: Norwich Bulletin, "Connecticut panel considering early parole for juveniles," Susan Haigh, Nov. 29, 2012

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