Deadline Approaching For Juvenile Inmates To Renegotiate Life Sentences

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In January this year, the US Supreme Court ruled that its decision ending mandatory life terms for juveniles is retroactive, meaning that 1500 juvenile inmates will now get the chance to argue for a lesser sentence.

500 of the inmates are in Pennsylvania and, under the state’s Post Conviction Relief Act, they must petition the court by Friday of this week.

“Sample petitions have been sent out and made available at prison libraries across the Commonwealth,” said Emily Keller, who works for the Juvenile Law Center.

She says Philadelphia is taking the brunt of the workload, with nearly 300 inmates filing petitions here, which could mean backlog.

Keller says the timeline for how these cases are handled, and how long it will take, will depend on a lot of factors including: “their age at the time of the offense, and how their age and maturity may have played a role.”

She says the DA could negotiate reduced sentences with another option being a hearing. That could mean a years-long wait for inmates, some of whom have lived behind bars for decades.

How it’s handled will depend on the county. In Chester County, a judge reduced all sentences to time served, making inmates eligible for parole.

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