Maine Has Long Avoided Life Sentences for Juveniles

Vermont law already prohibits juvenile life without parole

Now 31, Priester is one of more than three dozen state inmates eligible for new sentences and a possible shot at release in the wake of Supreme Court decisions banning mandatory life without parole for minors.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a measure into law on July 21 that includes a provision banning life without parole for juvenile offenders.

The court found that the harshest punishments levied against adult criminals may be unconstitutionally cruel and unusual for juveniles due to their lack of development and potential for change.

The Juvenile Court backed a bill this past legislative session that would have allowed young offenders to be eligible for parole after 20 years for crimes that resulted in someone's death. Such young offenders are barred from receiving that sentence in Kansas.

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Juveniles can still be certified to stand trial as adults, but they will no longer automatically be sentenced to life without parole for crimes that carry that sentence.

Another roughly 100 former teen offenders in the state must serve the minimum 51 years before parole eligibility, records from the Tennessee Department of Correction show.

Two years ago the Vermont Legislature passed a law prohibiting such sentences.

Joel Ira is now 36 and petitioning for release before the state Supreme Court. If he becomes eligible for parole he could be freed as early as next year, 25 years after his arrest, Risher said. He was given a life sentence for the fatal beating of a man in 1982, when Blizzard was 17 years old. He never sought resentencing under the 2012 law and didn't have to, based on a previous decision by the justices in a different case, Risher said. It's even more hard for offenders with mental health, language or other barriers, said Calvin, the Human Watch advocate Rights.

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