Proceed carefully in revising policies on life sentences for youths

The article State seeks new policy on life sentences: Youths must get chance of parole” (Page A1, Nov. 20) notes that Massachusetts is not moving as quickly as some other states to revise laws to ensure compliance with the US Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama, banning automatic life-without-parole sentences for juveniles.

We believe that Massachusetts is acting responsibly by taking the time necessary to carefully consider the implications of the court’s reasoning and determine how to hold children accountable for serious crimes in an age-appropriate way.

When states rush to act, they end up with narrow, short-sighted revisions that often replicate the problems of legislation they replace.


The Miller decision, along with a series of other recent rulings from the court, has made it clear that age matters, and calls states to scale back extreme sentences imposed on youths that fail to account for their unique characteristics as children.

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Policy makers in Massachusetts and across the nation would be well served to proceed carefully to revise their policies to ensure that they hold youth accountable for harm they have caused in a way that reflects their capacity to change, with a focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Jody Kent Lavy

Director and

national coordinator

Campaign for the

Fair Sentencing of Youth