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Note - A Proposed Solution to the Resentencing of Juvenile Lifers in Pennsylvania Post Montgomery


In 2016 the Supreme Court held in Montgomery v. Louisiana that Miller’s holding was retroactive and that juvenile lifers whose sentences were final before Miller were entitled either to a resentencing or to immediate parole eligibility. Miller affected more juvenile lifers in Pennsylvania than any other state, with nearly 500 individuals in need of resentencing. Pennsylvania is currently grappling with how to conduct these resentencings, particularly considering that sentencing laws passed after Miller do not apply to these individuals. There are numerous, significant issues associated with conducting a retrospective Miller analysis that put juvenile lifers at a severe disadvantage, particularly because they entered prison without the hope of release. Consequently, juvenile lifers in Pennsylvania should—after serving their current mandatory minimums—automatically be eligible for parole. This solution addresses the unfairness that juvenile lifers are likely to face at resentencing without compromising public safety, promotes efficient use of resources, and remains consistent with the rehabilitative purpose of the juvenile justice system.