With the signature of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Nevada passed legislation on Monday to become the 13th state to abolish a life without the possibility of parole sentence for juvenile offenders.
Assembly Bill 267, which passed unanimously through both houses of the Nevada legislature, revises state law concerning the sentencing and parole of offenders convicted as adults for a crime committed when they were under the age of 18. It also requires the court with jurisdiction to consider significant differences–emotional, physiological, etc.–between adult and juvenile offenders, taking them into account when establishing appropriate sentences.
Existing law had prohibited the imposition of a death sentence for those under the age of 18 at the time of the crime, and provided a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Additionally, existing law prohibited juveniles from being sentenced with life with parole for non-homicide crimes.
AB 267 eliminates the sentence of life without the possibility of parole for those who committed a crime under the age of 18 entirely, providing that the maximum sentence allowable under law is life with the possibility of parole. Under this new law, juveniles who receive such a sentence must serve a pre-determined amount of time in a correctional facility–between 15 and 20 years, depending on the crime–in order to be considered for parole.
This new law continues a trend found nationwide of moving away from life without parole sentences for juveniles. Vermont earlier this month passed similar legislation, and the American Bar Association issued a resolution calling on other states and the federal government to abandon life without parole sentences as well.
The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, a grassroots advocacy group supportive of the bill, stated that children convicted of serious crimes can change if given the chance:
“Nevada has taken a great step forward in recognizing that children should be treated differently than adults,” said James Dold, Advocacy Director for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. “It is indicative of the growing rejection of harsh sentences for children that the legislature voted unanimously for such sweeping reforms.”
Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth’s full comments on AB 267 can be found here.