The state house judiciary committee held a hearing this past week in Philadelphia on the practice of sentencing juveniles to life in prison, without parole. At issue is whether juvenile lifers should get a shot at getting out, years down the road.

KYW’s Steve Tawa reports Executive Director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia says the international community has found that it can respond to youth crime without throwing away the keys:

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“Pennsylvania leads the world in the number of juveniles serving life without parole.”

He says the US is the only country in the world with such a sentence:

“And Pennsylvania has far more juvenile lifers than any other state.”

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There are 473 juveniles serving life sentences in the Commonwealth. The co-author of the bill, representative Kenyatta Johnson says it provides for parole hearings at least once during the first fifteen years of a life sentence, and every three years thereafter:

“This falls on the cuffs of a supreme court ruling that sentencing a juvenile to a life sentence is cruel and unusual punishment, particularly in non-homicidal cases.”

Victim’s rights advocates disagree. Carol Schouwe of East Norriton lost her son, who was murdered on the order of a gang leader:

“His actions have proven he has no value of life.”

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(photo by KYW’s Steve Tawa)