Target: Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Corbett
Goal: Lower outrageous minimum prison sentences for juveniles
The Supreme Court recently banned mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders. In accordance with this new ruling, the Pennsylvania General Assembly will vote on Senate Bill 850 which sets extremely harsh sentences for youth offenders. Under SB 850, a 12-year-old convicted of first degree murder will be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years with a possibility of a life sentence. A minor age 15-17 will be given a minimum of 35 years with the possibility of life. 35 years to a 15-year-old is life. These harsh penalties make the Supreme Court ruling obsolete.
Obviously kids who commit murder are deeply troubled. But to put away a 12-year-old until he or she is 37 seems ludicrous. The whole reason the Supreme Court made this ruling was to give these troubled kids a second chance. If they continue to show problems, they don’t have to be let out, but children are more likely to be rehabilitated than adults. They should at least be given a chance in life.
Governor Thomas Corbett has the sole ability to stop this brutish bill with a veto. If these new mandatory minimums are put in place, there will be no real change. Kids will be tossed aside and Pennsylvania will still have the largest number of juveniles serving life sentences in the country.
Dear Governor Corbett,
Senate Bill 850 completely undermines the Supreme Court’s ruling that juveniles cannot be subjected to mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. Setting the minimum at 25 years for those under 15 and 35 years for those 15-17 is no better than a life sentence. These children will still grow into hard, institutionalized adults despite the fact that children are statistically receptive to rehabilitation.
Of course these children need to be punished. There is no room in our society for murder; no matter how old the perpetrator is. But to not even try to rehabilitate these kids is horrendous. Imagine your entire life determined by something you did when you were 12. Not to say many of these kids wouldn’t continue their antisocial behavior, but for those who do stand a chance, these mandatory minimums are tantamount to life. The kids don’t have to be let out if they show no signs of rehabilitation, they just need to be given a chance and they can be handled on a case by case basis instead of condemning them simply because it is procedure. Please use your executive power to veto SB 850.
[Your Name Here]