When it was established last year, Colorado's Juvenile Clemency Board was held out as a last ray of hope for young prisoners serving time for crimes they committed in their teens.
But 24 young prisoners serving life without parole - and many more serving lesser sentences - are ineligible to petition the board to reduce their sentences.
A misunterstood eligibility rule appears to be the problem.
It recently came to light when Christopher Selectman, 30, who is serving a life sentence for gunning down a man during a drug deal when he was 16, asked for an application and was told he wasn't entitled to one.
That's because he was 18 - an adult - by the time he was sentenced, according to his prison case manager.
In his executive order establishing the juvenile clemency board last fall, Gov. Bill Ritter said it was designed for juvenile offenders who had been tried as adults.
Selectman certainly appears to fit that designation.
But criteria adopted by the board state that to be eligible for clemency, an inmate must have been a "juvenile when he was tried and convicted as an adult."
In other words, officials didn't consider Selectman's age when he committed the crime, but rather his age when he was tried.
In practice, prison case managers are using the final court sentencing order to determine eligibility, a date that may be even later than the conviction date. This is what happened to Selectman.
Since many cases, especially murder charges, can take a year or more to get to trial, a number of young prisoners become ineligible under this definition.
Rocky Mountain News