All children deserve and need society’s protection to grow into healthy, productive adults. Even children who commit serious crimes are still children. We should respond to youth crime in a thoughtful and effective way that preserves community safety, contributes to Nebraska’s future prosperity, and gives children the protection they need.
Voices for Children in Nebraska supports LB 44, which would repeal juvenile life without parole, because it provides an opportunity to establish appropriate and fair sentences for youth and creates a brighter future for Nebraska. LB 44 and the elimination of juvenile life without parole is good public policy for a number of reasons:
1. Sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole is inconsistent with our knowledge of child and adolescent development. Children and youth are not little adults. Scientific studies have shown that youth have poorer impulse control, are more susceptible to peer pressure, and are incapable of weighing long-term consequences because their brains are still developing and changing, even into their twenties. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled (Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, J.D.B v. North Carolina, and Miller v. Alabama) that youth are less culpable for their actions for these very reasons and must be treated differently. LB 44 will bring Nebraska into greater compliance with these decisions and will establish greater consistency under our other laws which restrict youth’s freedoms because of their differences.
2. Life without parole is costly and ineffective. On average, taxpayers spend approximately $2 million to incarcerate a child for life. Costs for aging inmates in particular, place a huge burden on state budgets.  Conversely, a productive, college-educated adult contributes over $1 million to society. Because adolescents are not fully grown, they are capable of change and rehabilitation. Life without parole effectively makes them a permanent burden on our society, instead of holding them accountable in a way that will allow future benefit to Nebraska.
Our responsibility to protect children requires us to hold them accountable in a way that gives them the opportunity for rehabilitation, redemption, and hope for a second chance at life. Voices for Children in Nebraska thanks the committee for the leadership over the past few years on child welfare and juvenile justice reform. We believe LB 44 is an important part of this work and we urge you to advance it.