New Mexico Abolishes Death in Prison Sentences for Children


New Mexico became the 27th state to ban life-without-parole sentences for children on Friday when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 64.

The new law provides that people sentenced to life or lengthy terms for crimes committed when they were 14 to 17 years old will have an opportunity for parole.

“My colleagues understood that all children are capable of and worthy of redemption,” one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, said. “Any parent knows children are different from adults, and now the State of New Mexico recognizes that we have to take that into consideration when sentencing children. I am grateful that this will give hope to children who have made big mistakes so that they can seek redemption and the transformation they are capable of attaining.”

The new law will affect at least 75 people, according to the ACLU. Most will be eligible for a parole hearing after 15 years in prison.

About 11 of the 75 people impacted will have to wait longer for parole review. People convicted of first-degree murder are eligible for parole after 20 years, and those with two or more first-degree murder convictions must serve 25 years before their first parole hearing.

A recent study suggests that only 1% of juvenile lifers who were released following sentencing reform returned to prison after 1.5 years—a strikingly low re-incarceration rate, the Los Alamos Daily Post reported.