Brown Commutes Juvenile Sentences Of More Than 70 Offenders

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown has commuted the sentences of more than 70 people convicted of felonies while juveniles, but the action doesn’t automatically mean they are about to be released.

The governor’s commutations earlier this week granted some adults in custody who committed serious crimes as juveniles the opportunity to appear before the Oregon State Board of Parole and Post Prison Supervision to argue for their release after 15 years in prison, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday.

The list includes people convicted between 1988 and 2019 for crimes such as murder, assault, rape and manslaughter while juveniles. A 2019 bill made changes to the mandatory minimum sentences for minors sentenced on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

While the legislation was not retroactive, Brown’s commutations effectively apply part of Senate Bill 1008 — known as a second-look hearing — to the list of 70 people currently in prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted recent research about juveniles and found they must be treated differently by the criminal justice system, in part, because their brains aren’t fully developed at the time when alleged crimes occur.

The governor’s signed order notes “these individuals — initially incarcerated as youth ― are capable of tremendous transformation and, due to the age and immaturity at the time of their offenses and behavior thereafter, should be able to petition for release.”

Aliza Kaplan, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, called the governor’s use of commutations “unprecedented.”