Hawaii Becomes Latest State to Abolish Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences


Last Wednesday, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed House Bill 2116, which abolishes life imprisonment without parole sentences for all children under age 18 at the time of the crime.

Hawaii’s legislature passed the Fair Sentencing of Youth Act in May to “acknowledge[] and recognize[] that children are constitutionally different from adults and that these differences must be taken into account when children are sentenced” in adult court. Lawmakers also noted that the United States is the only country in the world that allows children to be sentenced to die in prison, in violation of international law.

The new law eliminates life-without-parole, which was the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder and attempted murder, and replaces it with a life sentence that includes the possibility of parole.

Hawaii is the latest state to pass legislation in response to Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court decision banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders. Connecticut, West Virginia, Delaware, Nevada, Vermont, Wyoming, and Texas also have eliminated death-in-prison sentences for children in recent years.