The Schubert Center for Child Studies provided testimony on June 3, on an Ohio Senate bill (SB256) to abolish mandatory sentencing of juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Introduced by Sens. Nathan Manning and Peggy Lehner, SB256 is an effort to make Ohio law consistent with landmark U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case Graham v. Florida that began a decade ago. Ohio has yet to adopt policy that is consistent with SCOTUS’ central holding: that children who commit even heinous crimes are capable of change.
In particular, the Schubert Center seeks to advance developmentally appropriate policy by ensuring that children convicted in adult court of serious criminal offenses still have a meaningful opportunity for parole at some point in their adult life. Though SB256 is no guarantee of release, and would still require that youth convicted of the most violent offenses serve a minimum of 30 years, it creates a chance for parole eligibility. It also requires that the Ohio parole board consider the person’s age at the time of the offense and other mitigating factors of youth in order to provide a “meaningful opportunity” for release.
The Schubert Center believes SB256 is an important step forward in Ohio law, as it brings the state in alignment with SCOTUS precedent, the practices of other states and the developmental science of adolescence.