In a response to the public outcry to excessive sentences imposed as children are tried as adults, Governor Ritter has started a juvenile clemency board to look at those sentences. He will still have the final say on whether the recommendations of the board will be adhered to. Like one well-known lawyer put it, "it's like asking the arsonist to put out the fire."
Gov. Bill Ritter has created a juvenile clemency advisory board that will re-examine cases of youths sentenced as adults in the state prison system.
The seven-member panel is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. and comes as some local and national groups raise alarms about long sentences imposed on teens.
"We feel that it's an important thing for us to do," Ritter said. "I think there are issues regarding juvenile justice that warrant a separate clemency board."
As Denver District Attorney in 1993, Ritter helped lead the charge for changes in state law that made it easier for prosecutors to try juveniles as adults. Those laws, enacted by a special session of the state legislature, came in response to a surge in youth and gang violence in the so-called "summer of violence".
Last night, however, Ritter said his executive order creating the youth clemency panel does not represent a shift in his view of juvenile justice.
"It's still the governor's decision," he added, noting that the panel can only make recommendations on cases, but that he has the final say on any pardons or commutations of sentences.Ritter's order comes after a public policy debate over the last two years, in which some advocates have questioned the wisdom of locking up teenagers for life.