HARRISBURG, Feb. 6 – State Reps. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., and Seth Grove, R-York, will reintroduce their bipartisan resolution that would establish a task force on juvenile life sentences.
Grove said, “With the U.S. Supreme Court ruling a life sentence for juveniles is cruel and unusual punishment, we as a state must develop policies to address it. I appreciate Representative Dawkins’ leadership on this issue and look forward to working with him on ensuring we as a state can develop policies which conform to the court’s rulings.”
Dawkins said, “Pennsylvania faces a greater challenge than most states in complying with the Supreme Court’s rulings, since our state is home to nearly 500 of the nation’s 2,000 ‘juvenile lifers.’ I thank Representative Grove for his commitment to working in a bipartisan way on this vital criminal justice issue.”
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life without parole sentences for people who were under 18 at the time of the offense are unconstitutional, and in January 2016, the court ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana that its decision in Miller must be applied retroactively.
The proposed task force would undertake a thorough and comprehensive review of laws, court decisions, policies and procedures. The lawmakers said this would ensure an efficient appeals and post-conviction relief process that would provide just and fair sentences that are sufficient both to protect public safety and promote rehabilitation.
Under the resolution, the task force would meet to develop recommendations regarding how best to handle appeals and applications for post-conviction relief from the hundreds of people in Pennsylvania sentenced to mandatory life without parole when they were under 18.
The task force would be comprised of 11 experts who are knowledgeable and experienced in issues relating to criminal appeals, post-conviction relief and the appropriate sentencing of youth offenders. Seven members would be appointed by the House, Senate and governor, while the remaining four would be representatives from the Department of Corrections, the Board of Probation and Parole, the Sentencing Commission and the Office of Victim Advocate.
The resolution would require the task force to make a final report within 90 days of its first meeting.
Dawkins is also committed to continuing to pursue broader judicial reform regarding life sentencing.
EDITORS NOTE: There have been too many juveniles sentenced to Life Without Parole in the USA, especially in Pennsylvania, which has 414 of the national total of 2,000 such juveniles, many of which are now men in their 40’s 50’s and 60’s, who have served decades of time. Many of these men deserve a second chance, having shown exemplary behavior for many years, and the Supreme Court legislation has opened the door for parole for such worthy individuals.
But until Pennsylvania enacts appropriate legislation, juveniles sentenced between the ages of 18 and 25 will not be given a chance for resentencing under the new Supreme Court mandate. We need equal justice for all juveniles sentenced to life without parole…Please contact Representative Dawkins to voice your support!
See PA House Resolution 915 for complete details: You can contact Representative Dawkins to voice your support of this important legislative action at: STATE REP. JASON DAWKINS, 179TH Legislative District, 26A East Wing, PO Box 202179, Harrisburg, Pa. 17120-2179 OR at 4915 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19124, (215) 744-7901 (Mon-Thurs 8:00am-5:00pm ; Fri.8:30-3:30) Direct email : Jdawkins @ PAHOUSE.NET, REPDAWKINS@PAHOUSE.NET/OR WWW.PAHOUSE.COM/DAWKINS