The current law in Colorado mandates that juveniles who are charged as adults and convicted of first degree murder must be sentenced to life without parole. The policy has come under increasing criticism in recent years. A House Committee today is holding a hearing at 1:30 pm at the State Capitol on whether the law should be changed so that the juveniles can become eligible for parole after serving 40 years. Rep. Lynn Hefley, the proponent of the bill, has the support of “22 state and national political, criminal- justice and human-rights organizations.”

“What this bill does is provide a balance,” said Hefley, R-Colorado Springs. “It deals with both public safety and rehabilitation. We want to give kids an opportunity to be the citizens they could have been before they committed their crimes.”

Denver DA Mitch Morrissey opposes the bill. 5280 wrote about the bill here, and noted that a recent poll of Coloradans showed support for easing the punishments. Teen brains are not fully formed, which can lead them to make bad judgments and have poor impulse control. In 2001, Human Rights Watch issued this report, High Country Lockup. My view is that we should not give up on these kids. Many of them are poor, disadvantaged and left behind in our society. We need to find a way to give every one of them an equal chance to succeed. We need to break the cycle. Life without parole is not the answer.