Former Judge, Prisoner Want To End Life Without Parole For People Under 25

A former judge and a current inmate believe that people who commit serious crimes under the age of 25 should have the chance to be released once they turn 50 rather than face a sentence of life in prison without the chance of parole.

“There is so much research that has been done that people’s brains don’t really develop until they are around 25,” said Sen. Arthur Rusch, a Republican from Vermillion who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“We made a horrible, horrible, horrible mistake and a horrible choice of judgment,” but “I know that people can change and people can learn from their mistakes,” said Renee Eckes, a 42-year-old woman serving a life sentence for murdering a man when she was 19.

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Parole Boards Approved Fewer Releases In 2020 Than In 2019, Despite The Raging Pandemic

Prisons have had 10 months to take measures to reduce their populations and save lives amidst the ongoing pandemic.

Yet our comparison of 13 states’ parole grant rates from 2019 and 2020 reveals that many have failed to utilize parole as a mechanism for releasing more people to the safety of their homes.

In over half of the states we studied—Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina – between 2019 and 2020, there was either no change or a decrease in parole grant rates.

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Parole Reform Movement Gains Traction Statewide After Years Of Advocacy

The Less Is More Act holds wide support in both chambers of the state legislature.

The so-called “Elder Parole” bill has passed committee. And advocates are pressuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fully staff the state’s parole board, of which only 12 of 19 seats are currently filled. Together, the proposals could bring relief to thousands of people currently on or seeking parole.

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Alabama Man Dies In Overheated Prison Cell

Tommy Lee Rutledge, 44, died of hyperthermia on December 7 when his core body temperature rose to 109 degrees after his cell at Donaldson Prison in Bessemer, Alabama, overheated to more than 100 degrees.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported on Friday that the Alabama Department of Corrections refused to answer questions about Mr. Rutledge’s death, including how temperatures in Mr. Rutledge’s cell in the prison’s mental health ward soared past 100 degrees when it was 31 degrees that night.

Mr. Rutledge was initially sentenced to life in prison without parole for a crime that happened when he was 17. Equal Justice Initiative challenged the constitutionality of such sentences for children and in 2012 won a ban on mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children at the Supreme Court. EJI lawyers successfully represented Mr. Rutledge in resentencing proceedings and he was given a new sentence.

He would have been eligible for parole in three years.

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If Biden Wants To End Death Penalty, He Must Also End Death By Incarceration

In the waning days of the Trump administration, discussions often focused on the federal death penalty, as 13 people were executed between July and Biden’s inauguration. The Biden administration has pledged to eliminate the federal death penalty and incentivize states to do the same…

A Crucial Step.

However, what is often not included in this conversation is the hidden death penalty, also known as death-by-incarceration.

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New Surge Of COVID Is Spreading “Like Wildfire” In Illinois Prisons

With COVID-19 raging throughout the United States, there is a growing sense of desperation among people in prison. Pablo Mendoza, who recently got out of prison, said that those inside “are tired of the lockdown.”

They spend 23.5 hours a day in their cells. They have not had visits from their loved ones for almost a year.

Those who have caught COVID and are believed to be immune get out for yard time. Others are “weighing options,” according to Mendoza: “Stay safe, or get the virus so they can get some open air. They are willing to risk it; this is the mood right now.”

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‘The Criminal Justice System Is A Big Waste Of Money,’ Says REFORM CEO Van Jones

Many people are sent to jail for an extra year due to technical violations like being late to a probation meeting.

“There must be other ways to impose consequences on people when they’re under supervision than sending so many people back to prison for technical violations. If we can have people come home more successfully, that stops the revolving door of people going back in,” Van Jones said, adding that people need to have the ability to vote, rent housing and get an education so that felony convictions from decades ago don’t impact their ability to participate in society later in life.

“You know, any system that had this kind of failure rate — would have been rethought a long time ago.”

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Joe Biden Orders End Of Federally Run Private Prisons

President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Justice to end its reliance on private prisons and acknowledge the central role the government has played in implementing discriminatory housing policies.

“America has never lived up to its founding promise of equality for all, but we’ve never stopped trying,” President Biden said. “Today, I’ll take action to advance racial equity and push us closer to that more perfect union we’ve always strived to be.”

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What Happens To The Federal Death Penalty In A Biden Administration?

Joe Biden is the first president in U.S. history to openly campaign on abolishing the death penalty and win. Now that he’s in the White House, pressure is already mounting from activists and lawmakers for him to fulfill that promise.

Pointing to the more than 160 Americans who’ve been exonerated from death sentences since 1973, Biden pledged on the campaign trail to work to pass legislation eliminating the federal death penalty.

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