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posted: 1/20/2014 5:00 AM

Juvenile offenders need special consideration

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The Illinois Supreme Court last week heard oral arguments in the case of Adolfo Davis, who has spent more than two decades behind bars for participating in a robbery that ended up killing two people. He was 14 when he committed the crime in which he never fired a shot, and he was sentenced to life without parole.

Davis' attorneys are asking that the U.S. Supreme Court's June 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama apply retroactively to Davis and other Illinois juveniles sentenced to life without parole. The justices ruled the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution "forbids a sentencing that mandates life in prison without possibility for parole for juvenile offenders."

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The Catholic Conference of Illinois in August joined other faith-based organizations in an amicus brief to Davis' case, pointing out the high court noted that juveniles lack maturity, are far more impressionable than adults, and still have the capacity to change. CCI further notes that Davis has accepted responsibility for his actions, attained his General Education Diploma and works with a Catholic priest to deter at-risk children from criminal activity. Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2011 wrote Gov. Pat Quinn, asking him to commute Davis' sentence.

The Catholic Conference also supports state legislation ending mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles, a position shared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

We support the justifiable punishment of crime, but also believe in the redemptive abilities of the individual, especially juveniles who can mature, repent and develop into productive members of society.

Robert Gilligan

Executive director

Catholic Conference of Illinois

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