Currently in Nebraska, judges are required to sentence youth who commit murder to life without parole, and cannot consider any relating factors such as the child’s age or life circumstances. LB 44, which advanced to Select File today, would allow judges to consider the child’s circumstances when imposing a sentence.
There are 27 prisoners in Nebraska who have been subjected to the state’s mandatory life without possibility of parole. These people committed their crime as children, and will die in prison.
The Lives of Juvenile Lifers has conducted some research into who the children are that committed crimes that resulted in a life without parole sentence. These children are disproportionately disadvantaged, and struggled with education, and are frequently subjected to abuse.
Of juvenile lifers nationwide:
- 79% experiences high levels of exposure to violence in their homes and communities
- Nearly half (46.9%) experienced physical abuse, include 79.5% of girls
- 77.3% of girls have reported histories of sexual abuse
- 31.5% of juvenile lifers were raised in public housing
- 17.9% were not living with a close adult relative just prior to their incarceration
- 2 in 5 had been enrolled in special education classes
- 84.4% had been suspended or expelled from school at some point
These numbers show obvious social disadvantages for juvenile lifers. These factors (and others) should be taken into account at sentencing. LB 44 is a step forward in changing that.