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Ex-Prosecutors Urge DOJ to Reconsider Life for Juveniles

A group of former federal, state, and local prosecutors has urged the Justice Department to reconsider how it punishes juveniles accused of murder, NPR reports. The group, organized by the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law Center, wants the DOJ to limit the seeking of life sentences without parole to the rarest cases in which the defendant is "incapable of change." Barring such a determination, the prosecutors said, no more than 30 years should be sought. They recommended that decisions be made by a unit created to review life-in-prison requests from line prosecutors, and that the the attorney general must sign off such orders. The letter advocated for a review of all of the dozen or fewer current juvenile lifers to evaluate whether they are capable of rehabilitation.

The Supreme Court has limited the available sentences for juveniles. In 2005, the death penalty was found to be unconstitutional for juveniles. In 2010, the court ruled that juveniles could not be sentenced to life without parole except in murder cases. However, last year the court found that sentencing judges do not need to determine that a juvenile convicted of murder is incorrigible in order to impose a life sentence without parole. The prosecutors' letter asks DOJ to make findings of incorrigibility part of its internal policy in the small number of juvenile murder cases.


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