Last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Falcon v. State that juveniles not convicted of murder may not be sentenced to life in prison, and that even those convicted of murder may not be sentenced to life without parole, citing a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that children are inherently less culpable and more amenable to rehabilitation.
This week, in the wake of that decision, approximately 200 inmates in Florida’s prisons – those who are serving life in prison for crimes they committed as juveniles – may begin applying to have their sentences retroactively reduced.
“It’s a major landmark, what we’re seeing with Falcon,” says Tania Galloni of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s branch in Florida. “This is a huge deal for juveniles in the state of Florida.”
But for Florida juveniles accused of lesser crimes – in other words, crimes that were never punishable by a sentence of life in prison – the outlook in the Sunshine State remains exceedingly dark. In fact, by most available metrics, Florida remains the worst state in the country to be a child in the justice system.