The Iowa Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision last week ruled that juveniles convicted of first-degree murder cannot be sentenced to life in prison without parole. The Court said that LWOP for juveniles was “speculative” and didn’t properly consider whether a juvenile prisoner can be rehabilitated. Decisions about parole should not be made “when the juvenile character is a work in progress,” but rather on based on later determinations about “those who over time show irredeemable corruption,” Justice Brent R. Appel wrote for the majority.
There are about 2,500 people who were sentenced as juveniles to life without any chance at parole, according to the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit group advocating criminal justice reform.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that mandating life in prison without parole for juveniles convicted of homicides is unconstitutional, and earlier this year the justices expanded that decision and said it must be applied retroactively. In a 2010 ruling, the court had also said that juveniles could not be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for any crime short of a homicide.