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Reprieve for Connecticut juvenile offenders supported by public

The General Assembly is working on legislation to change the future for many juveniles who are convicted of serious felonies. It is based on two particular U.S. Supreme Court decisions. In 2010, life sentence without parole for a juvenile convicted of felony charges was ruled unconstitutional on a non-homicide conviction. A 2012 case included the same finding involving a homicide by a juvenile.

Most of the pending legislation is recommended by the Connecticut Sentencing Commission. Reportedly, the bill states a juvenile sentenced to 50 years or less gets parole eligibility after serving the greater of 12 years or 60 percent of the sentence. A sentence of more than 50 years would require 30 years served for eligibility. Also, any juvenile committing a crime when less than 18 and facing more than 10 years may be considered for parole. According to a sentencing program administrator, about 250 Connecticut prisoners would be eligible for a parole hearing under the new law.

Some raise the concern of the parole board interpreting law. A victim's advocate group opposes the law because the years defined are far less than the Supreme Court's decisions support. Also it allows the Board of Pardons and Paroles to bring up cases for review as often as it chooses.

The recent public hearing saw many favor the bill. One woman related her personal story about how a rash, immature decision resulted in her incarceration. Sharing how remorse, rehabilitation and maturity can allow for a helpful return to society; support was vocalized by several family members of convicted felons.

It's important to have an effective criminal defense when facing felony, drug or assault charges, whether you're in Connecticut, or elsewhere in the country. Good negotiating tactics, protection of the suspect's rights and a clear understanding of the processes are critical. When a juvenile faces jail time, long-term consequences are more relevant. New laws can impact one's future, and an experienced review of options may present helpful choices.

Source: The Day, "Bill would temper long sentences for young offenders" Johanna Somers, Mar. 04, 2014

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