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Imprisoned for life as a teen: Inmates fight for second chance

Imagine some of the things you did as a teen. Perhaps some of the things you did were illegal or dangerous. While some people don't get caught, others do. They might end up in prison for crimes others got away with. Now, years later, they're still doing time for a crime they committed when they were young and less informed than today.

Today, Virginia's courts are facing a difficult problem. Some inmates serving life without parole committed their crimes as teens and have no chance of freedom in their lifetimes. That could change, though, because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states may not impose mandatory life without parole sentences on those under 18 who are convicted of murder. That change in 2012 wasn't treated as a retroactive change. In 2016, that ruling was made retroactive, which means that some of the people in prison in Virginia may have a second chance at a life that is not behind bars.

As of Feb. 2017, there were 51 people serving life without parole sentences for crimes they committed before they were 18 in Virginia. Twelve of those convictions were for murder, while 27 were for homicide. One was for robbery, while 11 others were for crimes such as sexual assault and abduction.

Should these individuals receive a second chance? The courts are fighting back, stating that Virginia's sentences can't be considered mandatory. The judges there have the opportunity to suspend part of a sentence or all of the sentence recommended by a jury and can alter plea agreements.

Life without the possibility of parole is a difficult sentence to live with. If you face a charge, you can fight to prevent this sentence with the help of your attorney.

Source: The Washington Post, "Inmates locked up for life as teens seek relief in Virginia," Alanna Durkin Richer, July 31, 2017

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