Arkansas Panel Halts Action On Juvenile Lifers' Sentences

Jul 31, 2017

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen.
Credit PBS

The Arkansas Parole Board is halting action under the state's new law that eliminates mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles after a judge said it's unconstitutional.

A new law that took effect in March made juvenile life-without-parole inmates eligible for release after serving 25 years for first-degree murder or 30 years for capital murder. The parole board would determine eligibility, but it has stopped action following the June ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. Griffen said the new fixed terms prevent individualized sentencing, and ordered a sentencing hearing for Brandon Hardman, convicted of capital murder for a shooting committed when he was 16.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said mandatory no-parole terms are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. The Department of Correction says there are about 41 so-called juvenile lifers in state prisons.