On April 11, the state of Louisiana denied Henry Montgomery’s request for parole for the second time. He is 72 years old, and has been incarcerated since 1963 for a homicide committed at age 17. In 1969, he was sentenced to a term of life without the possibility of parole.
If Louisiana had its way, Mr. Montgomery would never have had received a parole hearing at all. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have banned life without the possibility of parole for juveniles, but Louisiana, despite its size, is home to the second most juvenile lifers.
Over the past decade the U.S. Supreme Court has sharply limited the use of life without parole for juveniles, but Louisiana refused to apply these precedents to Mr. Montgomery, who brought his case successfully to the highest court in the land. In 2016, after noting the ways that he had become a model prisoner, the Court ruled 6-3 that Mr. Montgomery and people like him were entitled to an individualized review that recognized the hallmark attributes of youth and juvenile offenders’ unique capacity to change. “Prisoners like [Mr.] Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption,” according to the decision that bears his name.
Today, we see the hollowness of that decision. Just one member of the Parole Board voted against his application, but a unanimous vote is required for release. Montgomery has served as a coach and mentor for younger people serving alongside him in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, but this one board member said he needed to avail himself of programming that his defense attorney stated does not even exist.
The Sentencing Project condemns the decision of the Louisiana Committee on Parole. It is time for Henry Montgomery to come home.