Senate Bill 317, introduced by Senator Danny Martiny, addresses the unconstitutional sentencing of juveniles for non-homicide offenses to life without parole. In 2010, the Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida made clear the unconstitutionality in sentencing a juvenile (under age 18) to life without parole for non-homicide offenses. In November of 2011, the Louisiana Supreme Court followed by ruling in State v. Shaffer that juvenile life sentences for non-homicide offenses are unconstitutional and that those offenders currently serving life without parole for non-homicide offenses committed when they were under 18 should have their sentences amended to include the possibility of parole after serving 20 years and reaching age 45. Immediately following, the Louisiana Law Institute provided that in order to become Graham compliant, the state of Louisiana would need to at least offer parole eligibility to juvenile offenders serving life without parole for non-homicide offenses after they served 20 years and reached age 45.
Senate Bill 317 was introduced in response to the aforementioned Court rulings and recommendations. This bill, when originally introduced, offered parole eligibility after a juvenile had served 20 years and reached aged 45. Additionally, the bill mandated that a three person parole board shall decide whether or not to release the offender by majority vote with specific findings of fact in support of its decision. Under the bill, the board shall consider the offender’s risk assessment instrument, a written evaluation from expert in adolescent brain development and behavior, and any other relevant evidence when making the decision to grant parole.
Senate Bill 317 was heard in Committee (Judiciary B) on April 10th, where it passed, but was amended to allow juvenile offenders parole eligibility after serving 30 years and reaching age 45. The bill then went to the Senate floor where it was voted on and passed, 35 to 1. The bill was moved to the House of Representatives and will be heard in Committee (Administration and Criminal Justice Committee) on May 2, 2012. JJPL will continue our hard work to see this critical legislation advance through the House of Representatives, and invites all of our partners to join us in Baton Rouge on that day. For more information on how to join JJPL and Citizens for Second Chances in our Day of Action, contact Ethan Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.