Aclu: Judge Orders Release Of Juvenile Offenders

The Rhode Island prison system has been ordered to release three inmates granted parole for crimes they committed when they were teenagers, according to a local civil liberties group.

Pablo Ortega, Joao Neves, and Keith Nunes had been each given life sentences for murder as teenagers and recently granted parole, the American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday.

But the state Department of Corrections has continued to detain them, determining the men aren’t eligible for release until they serve additional time for the consecutive sentences they'd also received for crimes related to their murder convictions, the organization said.

The ACLU said a state Superior Court judge rejected that determination in court on Thursday.

The civil liberties group had challenged the inmates' continued detention for violating a law enacted by state lawmakers last year designed to give young offenders serving lengthy sentences a chance to demonstrate that they deserve an early release on parole.

The new statute, known as “Mario’s Law,” provides that “any person sentenced for any offense prior to his or her twenty-second birthday” is eligible for parole after serving twenty years.

The corrections department says it will review the judge's decision before commenting.