Juvenile Justice Reform Gets Bipartisan Boost

Denver -- A pair of bipartisan bills approved today at Colorado's Statehouse, Senate Bills 180 and 181, will help bring outdated Colorado sentencing laws into compliance with more recent court rulings requiring resentencing opportunities for nearly 50 juvenile offenders now serving life without parole. The bills make these necessary changes while also ensuring justice for crime victims and their families.

"We don't seek to minimize what victims and their families have been through," said Senator Laura Woods (R-Arvada), a co-sponsor of the bills. "We are here today to acknowledge what they've been through, while also recognizing the reality that Colorado's sentencing rules are in need of updating in light of more recent court rulings requiring that juvenile offenders be granted the right to at least petition for parole."

"With the ruling of the highest court in the land stating that mandatory life sentences for juveniles is unconstitutional, it falls to the State Legislature to ensure these 48 juveniles have their constitutional right to a resentencing hearing," added Senator Cheri Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge) who partnered with Woods on the bill. Jahn ticked off a number of states that have adopted more lenient resentencing guidelines than those proposed in the bills, to counter accusations that the changes would be soft on criminals.

Both Senators blasted District Attorneys trying to derail the bill as "bullies" and demagogues who have been using misinformation about cherry-picked cases to inflame public passions against the bills. Woods accused DAs of "re-victimizing families" by claiming the bills will set individuals free who will never see the light of day.

Jahn said she is "absolutely appalled by the behavior of the District Attorneys who have engaged in a campaign of misinformation to shame lawmakers into voting against what is ultimately the right thing. I am not ashamed, I am proud to take on this issue, and I will not be bullied."

"Just to be clear, none of these reforms guarantees parole to anyone," Woods stressed. "We're simply giving certain offenders, under certain circumstances, an opportunity to earn resentencing for those who have demonstrated real growth, real development and real change. That's not just the right thing to do but the Constitutional thing to do, in light of recent court rulings."

SB-180 and SB-181 now move to the House for consideration.

Please contact Sean Paige at 719-337-0355 with any questions.

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