Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

NEBRASKA - Bill Would Give Juveniles Doing Life A Chance For Parole

LINCOLN — Nebraska would join eight other states that have prohibited sentencing young murderers to life in prison without parole under a bill introduced Thursday in the Legislature.

Thirty people serving life prison terms in Nebraska were sentenced before their 19th birthdays.

Under current state law, there's only one way for someone sentenced to life for first-degree murder — whether 14 or 40 at the time of the crime — to be considered for parole. That is for the Nebraska Board of Pardons to commute the sentence to a set number of years.

The Pardons Board — the governor, secretary of state and attorney general — has not granted a first-degree murderer clemency since Kay Orr left the Governor's Office in 1991.

In the bill introduced by State Sen. Dwite Pedersen of Omaha, those convicted of murder before their 18th birthdays could be considered for parole after 25 years.

Those convicted of murder before their 16th birthdays could be considered for parole after 20 years.

In a recent report, Nebraska advocacy group Voices for Children, which supports Pedersen's bill, said that "life without parole is contrary to the mission of juvenile justice."

"It is poorly designed punishment that negates everything we know about adolescent brain development. It is not rehabilitation, nor is it justice," the report said.

"Instead of being given a fair opportunity to mature and develop, these young Nebraskans are forced to live incarcerated, without hope of release, for the rest of their lives."

Eight states and the District of Columbia prohibit the sentencing of youth offenders to life without parole. Colorado is the most recent to ban the sentence, acting in 2006.

Mel Beckman of Omaha, president of Family and Friends of Inmates, said his group is advocating for the change in the law.

"Children under 18 are not developed — they're not fully developed yet," Beckman said.

"They can commit terrible crimes, but most of the world does not hold them as responsible as an adult would be. We feel the United States and Nebraska should begin to accept that same attitude."