Missouri Senate OKs prison options for kids guilty of murder

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A bill moving through the Missouri Senate would change the state’s sentencing guidelines to eliminate the mandatory sentence of life in prison for minors convicted of first-degree murder.

Lawmakers on Monday endorsed changing the guidelines to bring them into line with a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found mandatory life sentences for minors unconstitutional. Bill sponsor Bob Dixon says that ruling left Missouri with no valid laws guiding such punishments.

Under the bill, a 16- or 17-year-old could be sentenced to a minimum of fifty years without parole, and somebody 15 years old or younger could face a minimum of 35 years.

The bill needs another vote before going to the House. Past attempts to change it have stalled over disagreements on the length of the minimum sentence.