A House amendment that will give some juvenile offenders in Missouri a chance at parole will become effective later this month. The provision was driven by the case of a man sentenced to 241 years in prison when he was 16.
The amendment was signed into law as part of Senate Bill 26. It would make anyone sentenced while a juvenile eligible for parole after serving 15 years of any sentence. It doesn’t apply to convictions for first-degree or capital murder.
Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City) sponsored the amendment, which he stresses does not automatically grant freedom to any offender.
“Ultimately it falls into the hands of the Parole Board. It’s up to their discretion. Every juvenile that’s in the system currently has a different criteria they have to meet obviously. I think it’s our duty to trust the Parole Board to do their job, and if anybody can be rehabilitated I do believe that we should put that faith into our youth. I trust them far more than someone else to be rehabilitated in the correctional facilities,” said Sharp.
Sharp and numerous other lawmakers in both parties think Bobby Bostic has been rehabilitated. In 1995, Bostic and an accomplice robbed a group of people delivering Christmas presents to the needy. He shot one victim, who sustained a minor wound. The pair then carjacked and robbed a woman. He was sentenced for 18 crimes and would not be eligible for parole until the age of 112.
None of the victims of Bostic’s crimes oppose him being given a chance at parole. The judge who sentenced him said that sentence was disproportionately harsh, and she favors giving him a chance at freedom.
O’Fallon Republican representative Nick Schroer has been among the leaders of the effort to help Bostic. He and others say that is because Bostic has clearly reformed.
“He’s done so much while he’s been behind bars,” said Schroer. “Getting rehabilitated to the point of taking it upon himself paying for different college classes, getting several different degrees, writing many books, and trying to work with communities in need within our state so juveniles that might have been on the same path he was won’t make that same decision … I believe that is what we can all agree our criminal justice system is there for.”
Sharp said it felt meaningful to pass this legislation, especially knowing that there are more than 100 more people in Missouri’s correctional facilities in similar situations.
The language becomes effective on August 28.