Act of 2007 (Introduced in House)
HR 4300 IH
December 6, 2007
Mr. SCOTT of Virginia (for himself and Mr. CONYERS) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
- Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
- This Act may be cited as the `Juvenile Justice Accountability and Improvement Act of 2007'.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
- Congress finds the following:
- (1) Historically, courts in the United States have recognized the undeniable differences between adult and youth offenders.
- (2) In fact, while writing for the majority in Roper v. Simmons (125 S. Ct. 1183), a recent Supreme Court decision abolishing use of the death penalty for juveniles, Justice Kennedy declared such differences to be `marked and well understood.'
- (3) Notwithstanding such edicts, many youth are being sentenced in a manner that has typically been reserved for adults. These sentences include a term of imprisonment of life without the possibility of parole.
- (4) The decision to sentence youthful offenders to life without parole is an issue of growing national concern.
- (5) While only about a dozen youth are serving such sentences in the rest of the world, research indicates that there are at least 2,225 youth offenders serving life without parole in the United States.
- (6) The estimated rate at which the sentence is imposed on children nationwide remains at least three times higher today than it was fifteen years ago.
- (7) The majority of youth sentenced to life without parole are first-time offenders.
- (8) Sixteen percent of these individuals were fifteen or younger when they committed their crimes.
- (9) Denying such individuals the possibility of a meaningful opportunity for parole is both cruel and unwise. It sends a message to our youth that they are beyond rehabilitation. It also demonstrates a complete lack of confidence in the ability of our penal institutions to accomplish one of their main goals and responsibilities.
SEC. 3. ESTABLISHING A MEANINGFUL OPPORTUNITY FOR PAROLE FOR CHILD OFFENDERS.
- (a) In General- For each fiscal year after the expiration of the period specified in subsection (d)(1), each State shall have in effect laws and policies under which each child offender who is under a life sentence receives, not less than once during the first 15 years of incarceration, and not less than once every 3 years of incarceration thereafter, a meaningful opportunity for parole. Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall issue guidelines and regulations to interpret and implement this section. This provision shall in no way be construed to limit the access of child offenders to other programs and appeals which they were rightly due prior to the passage of this Act.
- (b) Definition- In this section, the term `child offender who is under a life sentence' means an individual who--
- (1) is convicted of an offense committed before the individual attained the age of 18; and
- (2) is sentenced to a term of natural life, or the functional equivalent in years, for that offense.
- (c) Applicability- This section applies to an individual who is sentenced on or after the date of the enactment of this Act as well as to an individual who had already been sentenced as of the date of the enactment of this Act.
- (d) Compliance and Consequences-
- (1) COMPLIANCE DATE- Each State shall have not more than 3 years from the date of enactment of this Act to be in compliance with this section, except that the Attorney General may grant a 2-year extension to a State that is making a good faith effort to comply with this section.
- (2) CONSEQUENCE OF NONCOMPLIANCE- For any fiscal year after the expiration of the period specified in paragraph (1), a State that fails to be in compliance with this section shall not receive 10 percent of the funds that would otherwise be allocated for that fiscal year to that State under subpart 1 of part E of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3750 et seq.), whether characterized as the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Programs, the Local Government Law Enforcement Block Grants program, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, or otherwise.
- (3) REALLOCATION- Amounts not allocated under a program referred to in paragraph (2) to a State for failure to be in compliance with this section shall be reallocated under that program to States that have not failed to be in compliance with this section.
SEC. 4. ESTABLISHING A PARALLEL SYSTEM FOR CHILD OFFENDERS SERVING LIFE SENTENCES AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL.
- In addition to any other method of early release that may apply, the Attorney General shall establish and implement a system of early release for each child offender who is under a life sentence (as defined in section 3) in a Federal facility. The system shall conform as nearly as practicable to the laws and policies required of a State under section 3.
SEC. 5. GRANT PROGRAM TO IMPROVE LEGAL REPRESENTATION OF CHILDREN FACING LIFE IN PRISON.
- (a) In General- The Attorney General shall award grants to States for the purpose of improving the quality of legal representation provided to child defendants charged with an offense which could potentially subject them to the sentence of life in prison.
- (b) Defined Term- In this section, the term `legal representation' means legal counsel and investigative, expert, and other services necessary for competent representation.
- (c) Use of Funds- Grants awarded under subsection (a) shall be used to establish, implement, or improve a system for providing competent legal representation to--
- (1) individuals charged with committing, before the individual attained the age of 18, an offense subject to life imprisonment; and
- (2) individuals convicted of, and sentenced to life for, committing such an offense who seek appellate or collateral relief, including review in the Supreme Court of the United States.
- (d) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section such sums as may be necessary.