Maryland General Assembly abolishes life sentences without parole for juveniles

FILE - In this March 16, 2011, file photo, a security fence surrounds inmate housing on the Rikers Island correctional facility in New York. As of Wednesday, May 6, 2020, more than 20,000 inmates have been infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus and 295 have died nationwide, at Rikers Island and at state and federal lockups in cities and towns coast to coast, according to an unofficial tally kept by the COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project run by UCLA Law. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)(AP/Bebeto Matthews)
Life-without-parole sentences for juveniles have been abolished in Maryland as the state’s general assembly overturned two vetoes from Governor Larry Hogan.

Senate Bill 494 and House Bill 409 are called the Juvenile Restoration Act and they require authorities to sentence minors convicted as adults to less than the legal minimum term and prohibit courts from imposing life sentences.

Senator Chris West from Baltimore County said he thought the bill strikes a good balance.

“This bill is not a get-out-of-jail free card. This bill doesn’t offer any person incarcerated in a Maryland corrections facility the promise or the assurance of release,” West said.

Hogan vetoed the bill on Thursday and on Saturday the Senate overturned it. The House followed suit a few hours later.

When he issued the veto, Hogan said Senate Bill 494, “pertains to juveniles who have committed crimes so heinous that they are automatically charged as adults, including first-degree murder, first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense, manslaughter and certain offenses with firearms. These are serious crimes that require the most serious of consequences, which is why a judge or jury sentences the individual to a lengthy determinate sentence, life imprisonment, or life imprisonment without parole.”

Senator Delores Kelley from Baltimore County said incarcerated juveniles should get a second chance.

“Kids are not just miniature adults — psychologically they’re not where they need to be,” Kelley said.

The Maryland General Assembly also overturned several of Hogan’s vetoes of bills aimed at police reform in the state.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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