The Illinois Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a case addressing life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. Some observers believe that the case may reset the state’s sentencing of minors convicted of serious crimes. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling, in Miller v. Alabama, which found that sentencing minors to life without the chance of parole constituted cruel and unusual punishment, the Illinois court is reviewing the life sentence of Adolfo Davis who was convicted of participating in a double homicide at the age of 14. Now, 37, and after 2 decades in prison, Davis’ case may determine if Illinois retroactively applies the Federal Courts decision to the nearly 100 current Illinois inmates serving life sentences for crimes they committed as children. The MSNBC story points out that studies show these young inmates are often subjected to harsher prison conditions than other adults. Nationally, there are currently 2,500 life prisoners incarcerated as children. According to Deborah Labelle, director of the Juvenile Life Without Parole Initiative, most states are now grappling with the Supreme Court’s Miller decision:
“The more states that understand that the court’s decision should be applied retroactively certainly matters for people like Addolfo Davis who are serving life without parole sentences in Illinois, but it also matters in other states,” she said.