A Nebraska state senator is proposing legislation that would replace juvenile life without parole sentences with 20-year-minimum terms, although some offenders could be up for parole after 10 years behind bars.
State Sen. Brad Ashford (I-Omaha) presented the bill to the state’s Judiciary Committee Feb. 8, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
Currently, 27 inmates in Nebraska’s prisons are serving life without parole sentences for crimes committed as juveniles. In total, more than 250 other prisoners are housed in state facilities for offenses committed as juveniles.
“Many children have no hope,” Ashford told the AP. “Many children have no pathway to the rest of their lives.”
As currently written, the bill has no established minimum sentence and members of the Nebraska County Attorneys Association are calling for minimum 60-year sentences for juveniles convicted of homicide. Ashford is pushing for 20 years.
Ashford, however, said he has concerns about the constitutionality of the proposal, particularly regarding retroactive commutations for state prisoners already locked-up for juvenile offenses.
“I would support it if it’s constitutionally permissible,” he said. “But if there’s a question, we’re not going to put it in.”