OKLAHOMA LEGISLATURE PASSES INHUMANE & UNCONSTITUTIONAL YOUTH SENTENCING BILL, COULD BECOME NATIONAL OUTLIER

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 2, 2018

Media Contact: Karmah Elmusa | kelmusa@fairsentencingofyouth.org | 202-289-4677 ext. 113

OKLAHOMA LEGISLATURE PASSES INHUMANE & UNCONSTITUTIONAL YOUTH SENTENCING BILL, COULD BECOME NATIONAL OUTLIER

Law would be the worst among states that have passed legislation following U.S. Supreme Court mandate in Montgomery v. Louisiana

May 2, 2018, Washington, DC –– Today, in a misguided effort to comply with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on sentencing children to life without parole, the Oklahoma legislature passed SB 1221. If signed into law, this bill would make it easier for children in Oklahoma to receive draconian life-without-parole sentences, scaling back protections that were put in place by the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals – including protections that require a jury to find that a child is beyond rehabilitation before such a sentence could be imposed.

Oklahoma’s neighbors – including Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Colorado – have eliminated life-without-parole sentences for children. In making SB 1221 law, Oklahoma would not only be out of step with the region, but would have the worst law of this kind in the country and would become a national outlier when it comes to how the state treats children who are convicted of serious crimes.

“This bill flies directly in the face of the momentum we’ve seen around the country to end the barbaric practice of sentencing children to die in prison – a practice only seen in the United States. Not only has the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional in almost all cases, but the number of states to ban life without parole has quadrupled in just the last six years, with traditionally conservative states leading the way,” says Jody Kent Lavy, executive director of The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. “Science has shown us that children are different than adults. Their brains are not as developed, and just as they do not vote or serve in the military, they are not deserving of the same punishments. We ask Governor Fallin to veto this bill immediately, lest her state become a national aberration in its treatment of the most vulnerable among us — our children.”

Under SB 1221, children would lose the right to jury sentencing, while adults who commit the same crimes would still have that right. In other words, if made law, the bill would ensure that youth offenders in Oklahoma are treated worse than their adult counterparts. SB 1221 also raises serious constitutional concerns and will likely tie up Oklahoma Courts for years.

Finally, SB 1221 includes a 14-page amendment that was never vetted before any legislative committee in Oklahoma and was drafted wholly by the District Attorneys Council without input from judges, child advocates, or defense attorneys in the state. Oklahoma should be as thoughtful as its neighbors when crafting policies that will have a significant impact on children in the state, especially one that may take away their current constitutional rights.

For more information, or if you would like to speak with Jody Kent Lavy or advocacy director James Dold, please contact Karmah Elmusa at kelmusa@fairsentencingofyouth.org | 202-289-4677 ext. 113.

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The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth is a national coalition that leads, coordinates, develops and supports efforts to implement fair and age-appropriate sentences for youth.

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