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Dawkins Proposes Task Force on Juvenile Life Sentences

State Representative Jason Dawkins in working on final preparations to issue a resolution in the jason dawkinsGeneral Assembly to establish the Task Force on Juvenile Life Sentences.

The task force will meet to develop recommendations regarding how best to handle appeals and applications for post-conviction relief from the hundreds of individuals in this Commonwealth who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole when they were under the age of 18.

The task force will be comprised of eleven experts that are knowledgeable and experienced in issues relating to criminal appeals, post-conviction relief, and the appropriate sentencing of youth offenders.  Seven members will be appointed by the House, Senate and governor, while the remaining four will consist of representatives from the Department of Corrections, the Board of Probation and Parole, the Sentencing Commission, and the Office of Victim Advocate.

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life without parole sentences for individuals who were under 18 at the time of the offense are unconstitutional.  Then, on January 25, 2016, our nation’s highest court ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana that its decision in Miller must be applied retroactively.  Pennsylvania faces a greater challenge in complying with Miller and Montgomery than most states, as it is home to nearly 500 of the nation’s 2,000 “juvenile lifers.”

The resolution calls for a thorough and comprehensive review of laws, court decisions, policies and procedures.  This will ensure an efficient appeals and post-conviction relief process that will provide just and fair sentences that are sufficient to protect public safety and promote rehabilitation.

Follow this link for a draft of the proposed resolution.