Utah Joins Growing Number of States That Have Abolished Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences


Utah is the latest state to abolish life without parole sentences for children. Governor Gary Herbert signed H.B. 405 last Friday.

Utah joins a growing number of states that have passed legislation barring death-in-prison sentences for children after the Supreme Court banned mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders in Miller v. Alabama. South Dakota, Hawaii, Connecticut, West Virginia, Delaware, Nevada, Vermont, Wyoming, and Texas also have eliminated death-in-prison sentences for children in recent years.

The new law prohibits sentencing an individual under 18 years of age convicted of a capital crime to life in prison without parole and provides instead for an indeterminate sentence of not less than 25 years.

State Representative Lowry Snow, a Republican who sponsored the bill, told the Washington Post that lawmakers were persuaded by evidence that teens are more impulsive and less capable of good judgment than adults because their brains are not yet fully developed, and because they are still growing, they have a greater capacity for rehabilitation. “They’re not the same people when they’re 16, 17, 18 than they are when they’re 40 and 50 years old,” he told the paper. And “Utah is very prone to a recognition that there can be redemption and people can be given a second chance.”