New Mexico governor signs bill ending juvenile life sentences without parole

Authored by and submitted by Sariel007

New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill into law Friday that prohibits sentencing juvenile offenders to life in prison without eligibility for parole.

Under SB64, the No Life Sentences for Juveniles Act, offenders who committed crimes when they were younger than 18 and received life sentences will be eligible for parole hearings 15 to 25 years into their sentences, depending on the conviction, according to the state’s legislative website.

The legislation also applies to juveniles who were found guilty of first-degree murder even if they were tried as adults. If any juvenile offender is denied parole, they will “be entitled to a parole hearing at two-year intervals,” according to the bill.

New Mexico joins a slew of states that have enacted similar sentencing measures following a 2021 Supreme Court ruling that made it easier for those who committed their crimes when they were younger than 18 to be sentenced to prison for life without parole.

“When children commit serious crimes, they should be held accountable, but they should not spend their entire lives in prison without a chance for redemption,” said Democratic state Sen. Kristina Ortez, one of the bill’s sponsors, in a Facebook post.

But Republican state lawmakers have argued that the bill will let juvenile offenders get away with serious crimes.

State Rep. John Block, a Republican, introduced an amendment to exclude perpetrators of mass shootings that did not make it into the final text, he said in a tweet. Other amendments suggested by Republicans that were also left out, according to Block, were an increase in parole timelines and the exclusion of rapists.

The legislation passed the state Senate in late February with bipartisan support, and passed in the House earlier this week along party lines.

Illinois also passed a bill last month banning juvenile life sentences without parole. At least 24 other states and Washington, DC, have similar laws, according to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

The issue has been in the national spotlight in recent years as a result of several state laws and Supreme Court rulings.

The high court’s April 2021 opinion overturned its 2012 ruling that such sentences violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In 2010, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution prohibits life without parole for offenders who were under 18 and committed non-homicide offenses.

neildegraciadyson on March 19th, 2023 at 17:15 UTC »

Except Nehemiah. Keep that kid in for life.

DanishWhoreHens on March 19th, 2023 at 17:10 UTC »

My brother was convicted of an extraordinarily gruesome double murder at 15. He has been locked up for 42 years. His initial sentence was 2 life sentences without parole but because the laws have changed he became eligible for parole.

We were raised in an environment of constant physical and emotional abuse that severely damaged us both. There were no days in our time at home that weren’t an endless cycle of fear and stress exacerbated by the reality that even our most basic humanity such as hunger, emotions, and physical appearance were twisted into personal failures that merited constant physical and emotional punishment. Even our parent’s emotions, disagreements, and physical ailments were blamed on us and merited shame and abuse.

I have attended every single parole hearing since he became eligible. I reached out to the victim’s families to express my deep sorrow and to apologize for not seeing how broken and dangerous my brother was back then and for not somehow preventing what happened. Even though I was only 14 years old when he committed the crime I have carried this burden my entire life. That said, as a scientist, what I have come to learn over the years is the degree to which child abuse alters the physical structure of the developing brain. These changes are irreversible and permanent. Therapy, medications, and treatment can assist in providing coping mechanisms but they cannot erase and rewrite initial programming as it were. There is also the reality that the very areas of the brain most responsible for understanding consequences and controlling dangerous behavior, what we consider responsibility, are the last to develop, not maturing until the twenties. Genetics almost certainly also plays a part as his father, uncle, and grandmother suffered from anti-social and narcissistic PD’s. These threes issues… genetics, the changes wrought by abuse, and an immature frontal lobe, none of which is the fault of the person in question, are the perfect storm to create an offender.

Holding an 8 year old that still believes in super-heroes and the tooth fairy to the same standard of maturity, self-control, and understanding as an adult is a nonsensical and disingenuous an act as giving a toddler a bowl of soup and a spoon and then blaming them for the mess that results.

Am I advocating for my brother to go free? Every parole hearing requires an extensive psychological examination that confirms that is what is wrong in his brain is too severe to respond to treatment. It’s very nature tells itself that it does not need treatment or change. So, no. I do not. My brother is diagnosed as a psychopath and a narcissist. He is and will always remain a danger to society. It is clear that had he not been caught after his first murders he would likely have continued killing as it suited him. So, with the victim’s families at my side, supporting each other, I address the parole board and ask that they do not grant him parole. We try and hold each other up, listening, crying, and even celebrating happy occasions.

The victim’s families and I also share one other thing… the belief that if my brother had put in the extraordinarily hard work to accept responsibility for his crimes, to understand and empathize with those he left behind, devoted himself to help others, and could show evidence of a sincere and prolonged effort to do everything in his power to make the world better a better place going forward we would all support giving him a second chance. Not because we don’t value the lives he stole but because we acknowledge the normal, healthy life that was stolen from him and the belief that a society that failed the child owes the man a second chance to be who he could have been.

RealLongwayround on March 19th, 2023 at 14:52 UTC »

Here’s an important thing to consider: parole is only given to those who can show they are reformed. In many areas, a person given a life sentence will only ever be freed on licence, meaning that any offending behaviour sees them returned to prison.