Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) is considering whether to sign legislation ending life sentences without the possibility of parole for minors convicted of certain heinous crimes.
The state legislature passed the measure by wide margins in the last week of April; it passed the Senate unanimously, and only one member of the House voted no. Abercrombie has not said whether he would sign the bill, though even some prosecuting attorneys’ offices said they support it.
Hawaii would be just the eighth state to end the practice of sentencing minors to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In recent years, Texas, Wyoming, Delaware and West Virginia have eliminated that punishment, according to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. Florida lawmakers passed a measure last week to significantly limit the number of crimes for which minors can be sentenced to life without parole.
The Hawaii legislation would allow children convicted of first-degree murder to be sentenced to life, though they would have to be made eligible for parole eventually. The state requires any prisoner eligible for parole to be reevaluated every 12 months.
The United States is the only country in the world that imposes lifetime sentences on minors. There are about 2,500 people serving life without parole sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles. The Supreme Court has struck down laws allowing minors to be sentenced to death, life sentences for non-homicide crimes and automatic life sentences.