After attaching its own amendment to the bill, the House sent back to the Senate a bill that would give juvenile offenders serving lengthy prison terms a chance at parole.
The bill retroactively eliminates life sentences for capital felony and arson murder and convictions for murder with special circumstances for offenders who were under 18 when they committed the crimes. It also establishes alternative parole eligibility rules, requires judges to consider the age of the offender when sentencing them, and requires the Sentencing Commission to study how to notify victims of the parole eligibility laws.
Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said that the U.S. Supreme Court found that children lack maturity and have “an underdeveloped sense of responsibility leading to recklessness, impulsivity, and needless risk taking.”
He said the Supreme Court also found that when children are sentenced to life in prison there’s an assumption that they are “incorrigible.” He said the Supreme Court and brain scientists found that not to be the case. It’s been found that, with the proper interventions, these juvenile offenders can be rehabilitated.
The House amendment further clarifies the factors a judge should consider when sentencing a juvenile convicted of an A or B felony. Tong said all four caucuses were involved in drafting the amendment.
Republican lawmakers who helped defeat the bill the past two years were in support of the bill this year.
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, said they wanted to make sure the state was in compliance with two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, but they also were concerned with “maintaining our penalty system when it comes to juveniles.”
Prior to debate on the bill, Republican lawmakers expressed concerns about how victims would be notified and language to address that concern was included in the legislation this year.
The bill passed the House on a 135-11 vote Tuesday. It had passed the Senate on April 22. The Senate will have to adopt the House amendment before sending it to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.