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Illinois Bill Would Outlaw Mandatory Life Sentences For Teens

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(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (IRN) - Not all crime victims agree on the punishment for young offenders – not even when they are in the same family.

Jeanne Bishop and her mother, Joyce Bishop, testified on opposite sides of a bill addressing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling (People v. Miller) against a mandatory life sentence for a murderer who was under 17 at the time of the crime.

“It’s different now, because I’m different, because I have learned and grown,” says Jeanne Bishop. “None of us is perfect. Not one person sitting here in this room doesn’t need a second chance on something.”

Bishop’s pregnant sister and brother-in-law were killed by a teenager. Her mother, Joyce Bishop, has a differing viewpoint: “That child,” pausing to chuckle, “was six-foot-three. I wonder if any of you, when you were 16 (or) 17, knew the difference between right and wrong (and) knew it was wrong to kill someone.”

“Simply put, as the court noted in Miller, youth matters,” says Shobha Mahahdev, a clinical law professor at the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law. “The Supreme Court has made clear that children are not the same as adults (and) that these differences must be considered when holding them accountable for the harm that they have caused.”

“The retroactivity in this bill, should it become law, and I pray to God that it doesn’t,” says Ronald Holt, parent of a child who was killed when someone fired shots on a crowded bus, “would be reprehensible and egregious, and a smack in the face of people such as myself and thousands of others.”

H.B. 1348 has passed the House Restorative Justice Committee.

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