Senate Bill 440

Christopher Thomas was sentenced to 40 years when he was 13 years old. Though involved in robbing a pawn shop, he did not remove anything from the store, nor did he kill anyone. He was convicted of armed robbery and aggravated assault. Both Thomas and his co-defendant, Christopher Butts, were tagalongs in the robbery that they claimed was part of a gang initiation.

In the wrong place at the wrong time. Such is the fate of many minors aged 13-17 who get sentenced for one of seven great crimes, nicknamed the “Seven Deadly Sins”, under Senate Bill 440 – SB440. The minors face a huge penalty of adult proportions, being tried before the Department of Corrections as an adult in lieu of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

The “sins” or crimes in question are murder, rape, aggravated battery, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery with firearm, aggravated child molestation, and aggravated manslaughter. Convicts face a minimum of 10 years in prison; those who are sentenced longer cannot receive parole. A second conviction results in a life sentence without parole.

Such juvenile cases were stiffened in 1994 as part of the common belief at the time to get tough on crime. Recidivism, or one’s relapse back into crime, was certainly impacted, but in the opposite direction. Georgia’s crime rates showed as many repeat offenders in the juvenile system as in the adult system. Recidivism is on the rise nationwide, leading many to think that the tough on crime SB440 has failed in it’s purpose.