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Bay State must relax youth punishments

I WAS pleased to read the Globe’s story highlighting some of the injustices in the practice of sentencing children to life in prison without the possibility of release in Massachusetts (“For teens guilty of murder, penalties can vary widely; Review finds no pattern in young killers’ terms since Mass. law change,’’ Page A1, Dec. 27).

Massachusetts has one of the strictest sentencing schemes for juveniles in the country: children as young as 14 charged with murder must be transferred to adult court and receive a mandatory life without parole sentence, if convicted. There is no opportunity to consider the influence of older co-defendants, history of abuse or neglect, or any other mitigating factors.

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As a native of Newton, I find it particularly horrific that, had I been convicted of murder as a kid, I would have received a mandatory life in prison sentence with a guarantee that I would die in prison, while a kid convicted of an identical crime growing up in the Bronx would have been spared that punishment. Policymakers should pass the legislation introduced by State Senator Harriett Chandler to bring Massachusetts in line with its neighboring states, Texas, and the rest of the world.

Jody Kent Lavy

Director & National Coordinator

Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, Washington
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