The U.S. Supreme Court says it’s unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile offender to life in prison without parole. It’s been a year since that ruling was handed down. But Illinois has yet to update its law to reflect the ruling.
In the months following the Supreme Court’s decision, Illinois lawmakers have tried to pass legislation that would ban juveniles from receiving life sentences. But so far, those attempts have failed.
House majority leader Barbara Flynn-Currie is a co-sponsor of one the latest bills that would bring state law up to code.
Currie says there’s still a key sticking point in negotiations. She says some in law enforcement are worried about how the changes would affect those already serving a life sentence.
“State’s Attorneys are not happy at the prospect of reopening some of these old cases” Currie said.
Victims’ rights advocates have expressed similar concerns. But Currie says others feel that any change should require the state to review mandatory life sentences already issued.
“The view of human rights advocates is if you can’t get that kind of sentence on Wednesday, you sure shouldn’t have had it on Tuesday” Currie said.
Illinois currently has nearly 100 inmates serving life terms they received as juveniles. Legal observers say because the state has failed to act, it has opened itself to potential lawsuits from those inmates and from any cases in the future where someone under 18 is given such a punishment. They also say it makes it difficult for judges to work around the scope of the high court’s ruling.