By: Cole Miller
If a juvenile is sentenced to life without parole, should they eventually get a break? Some think so.
Omaha senator Brad Ashford says there should be a minimum amount of years for these juveniles to serve before they could possibly be paroled. Determining that minimum amount however, may not be an easy undertaking.
"It is unconstitutional to disregard the needs of children," Ashford said. "It is unconstitutional."
That statement from Ashford is in regards to Nebraska prisoners serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles, many of them behind bars for murder, but not all. He says there should be a 20-year minimum sentence for all of them. They then would be eligible for parole.
It's part of a bill he wrote that's garnering support from doctors and child behavioral specialists.
"While I realize this is a controversial topic, I would urge you to put emotions aside and look at the scientific research," Dr, Kayra Pope, a child psychiatrist said.
"Adolescents are not the same as adults, even when they commit serious crimes. They are more likely to grow, change and mature over time and are more amenable to rehabilitation."
Ashford's bill is based off of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, Miller v. Alabama, that says the sentencing of juveniles to a mandatory sentence of life without parole, is unconstitutional.
Citing 'Cruel and Unusual Punishment' under the 8th amendment. And while Ashford and others agree that a 20-year minimum sentence is adequate, Patrick Condon, Chief Deputy Lancaster County Attorney, says it should be 60 years.
A nearly 15 minute long debate with senator Ernie Chambers left the veteran lawmaker fired up.
"When you come here, you don't run anything," Chambers said.
"We run it. And they might think I'm rude, they might think I'm out of line, they might think I shouldn't talk like this, but I'm talking about what is to be done with children."
There were no opponents that testified against the bill.
There are 26 people in Nebraska serving life without perole for crimes they committed as juveniles. Ashford's bill would be retro for all of those now serving. The judiciary committee took no immediate action on the bill.