Experts, victims' advocates debate life-without-parole for juveniles

To Dawn Romig, Brian Bahr is the monster who kidnapped, beat, raped and strangled her 12-year-old daughter Danni.

But to juvenile-justice advocates, he was a child sentenced to “death by incarceration” by state laws that unfairly hold juveniles as accountable as adults for murder. Bahr was 17 in 2003 when he attacked Danni, who lived in his Allentown neighborhood.

Should kid killers like Bahr be locked up for life for their crimes or given a second chance if they show proof of redemption?

That was the question state lawmakers sought to answer this morning when the House Judiciary Committee hosted a public hearing at City Hall on whether to change state law to abolish life-without-parole sentences for juveniles.

“Just as he took her life, he should pay the price with his own,” Romig said.

Robert G. Schwartz, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center, countered: “’Adult time for adult crime’ is particularly unhelpful. It’s a slogan and it fits well on a bumper sticker ... It’s not fair or just to have a mandatory policy of treating youthful offenders as though they were adults.”

Today’s three-hour hearing centered on a bill Rep. Kenyatta Johnson, D-Phila., introduced last year that would give juvenile lifers a chance of parole after their 31st birthday if they’ve served at least 15 years of their sentence (and every three years thereafter).

Read the full story in tomorrow's Daily News.

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