Randolph Stone Discusses Life Without Parole for Illinois Youth on Chicago Public Radio's 848

Examining Life Without Parole For Illinois' Youth
WBEZ
"Eight Forty-Eight," WBEZ
February 13, 2008

The DuPage County State’s Attorney and a Republican state representative yesterday called for Governor Rod Blagojevich to lift the moratorium on the death penalty. They say the notoriously flawed system has been reformed. But the governor responded yesterday through his spokesperson, saying he won’t lift the eight-year moratorium until he’s convinced that the system is no longer flawed.

Capital punishment wouldn’t affect sentencing of juveniles offenders. Nearly 3 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty is unconstitutional for offenders under the age of 18. The justices in the majority wrote that children have a limited ability to understand the consequences of their actions.

Some activists in Illinois say the same reasoning applies to assigning sentences of life without parole. They say bad influences may be more to blame than the offender himself. Take Kevin—not his real name—who was convicted as a 14-year-old of being an accomplice to a double murder.

But victims’ rights groups say it’s dangerous to talk about paroling these offenders. Jeanne Bishop is a member of IllinoisVictims.org. She says some of the crimes speak for themselves. The Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children says those circumstances are exactly what a parole hearing is designed to evaluate. Today they’re releasing the report: Categorically Less Culpable: Children Serving Life Without the Possibility of Parole Sentences in Illinois. It makes the case for doing away with those sentences. 

University of Chicago Law Professor Randolph Stone is a member of the coalition and he joins us now in studio.