James Dold, advocacy director for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, was at the Capitol yesterday trying to persuade lawmakers to pass House Bill 2116which would eliminate sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders.

According to a press release from the Hawaii House, HB 2116 bill “falls in line with three U.S. Supreme Court rulings issued in the last decade that have found that children are constitutionally different from adults and, as such, should not be subject to our country’s harshest punishments.” 

The United States is “the only country in the world” and Hawaii is one of “a rapidly dwindling number of states” that uses life without parole as a sentencing option for children.

“We don’t allow children under 18 to vote, enter into contracts, buy tobacco or alcohol or even work in certain industries because we recognize their immaturity and lack of decision making ability” said Rep. Karen Awana, the bill’s introducer. “This bill aligns with other aspects in our society and culture.”

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Photo: Rep. Karen Awana. (Hawaii House)

—Chad Blair