Under Tennessee law, a child can be tried in adult court, and if convicted of first-degree murder, can be sentenced to life in prison, or life with a possibility of parole after 51 years. State legislators think that law is too harsh and in 2016 a bipartisan team including Sen. Doug Overbey (R) worked with lawyers and a judge to propose a new reform law. While acknowledging that you can never use the criminal justice system to make every victim of a crime feel they’ve been vindicated, these lawmakers all felt the bill would be a step in the right direction in making the state a leader in criminal and juvenile justice reform. Part of a 7-part series “Sentencing Children,” produced by Dan Birman and Independent Lens.
This series is part of Independent Lens’s commitment to fostering collaboration between filmmakers and journalists. “Sentencing Children” was originally published by The Tennessean newspaper.