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Connecticut juvenile law seeks new justice for offenders

Major goals of the American criminal justice system may be to protect victims and rehabilitate offenders, but that is not the case for thousands of kids accused of serious crimes each year in this country. For many, their first and only offense may place them in prison for the rest of their lives even though they are still considered minors under the law. Criminal law as it relates to juvenile offenders has been scrutinized in recent years on the state and federal level, and it seems Connecticut is taking notice and action.

According to one U.S. Supreme Court ruling, states must reconsider cases involving child offenders who are sentenced to life in prison. While the judgment does not suggest that these convicts be released automatically, the Supreme Court does state that it is unconstitutional to imprison minors without the possibility of release.

Largely because of this ruling, key Connecticut prosecutors, judges, law enforcement and defense attorneys have come together to propose changes to state juvenile justice policies. The new bill would require the state to evaluate cases where a minor is sentenced to a prison term of at least 10 years. The proposed legislation is slated to be introduced to the state House of Representatives now that it made its way through the judiciary committee.

Some opponents of the bill are skeptical of reconsidering life sentences for offenders under the age of 18. However, proponents reiterate the fact that the bill does not automatically overturn sentences. It does encourage cases to be reviewed for the possibility of release and rehabilitation.

If passed, this bill could make great strides for the juvenile justice system in Connecticut.

Source: Hartford Courant, "Bill On Juvenile Offenders Advances," Daniela Altimari, April 16, 2013

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