Greiman v. Hodges, 79 F. Supp. 3d 933, 936 (S.D. Iowa 2015) – Juvenile offender (age 16 at time of crimes) was convicted of a non-homicide offense and initially sentenced to mandatory life without parole. Following Graham, he was resentenced to life with the possibility of parole after twenty-five years. Because he had already spent more than twenty-five years in custody, he was eligible for parole immediately upon his resentencing. Greiman then brought a § 1983 action against the Iowa parole board and other state defendants alleging that his federal and state constitutional rights were violated because the board denied him a meaningful opportunity to obtain release.
Greiman alleged, inter alia, that the board “failed to provide him a ‘meaningful opportunity for parole’” by “summarily den[ying] him parole based solely on the seriousness of his offense,” and by failing “to ‘take into account [plaintiff’s] youth and demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation as required under the new constitutional and statutory mandates.’” Greiman also alleged that the Department of Corrections “has a policy that requires him to take sex offender classes before he can be released on parole but only permits inmates with less than two years before discharge to take such classes.” Because Greiman does not have a defined discharge date, he alleged he had been denied permission to enroll in sex offender classes and thus could not take the steps necessary to become eligible for parole. As relief, the Greiman sought an order requiring the Department of Corrections to permit him to enroll in the necessary prison programs to become parole eligible, requiring the parole board to consider his youth at the time of the offense and his demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation, and ordering the board to recognize the distinctions between children and adults.
A federal district court in Iowa denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss, reasoning, inter alia, that Graham has “applicability outside the context of a juvenile’s initial sentencing” because “Graham explicitly held that . . . the State must . . . give [juvenile non-homicide offenders] some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” The court therefore concluded that it is clear that “the responsibility for ensuring that Plaintiff receives his constitutionally mandated ‘meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation’ lies squarely with [the Iowa Board of Parole] and the other State-actor Defendants.” The court held that the Greiman presented a plausible § 1983 claim and denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. “Accepted as true, these allegations state a plausible § 1983 claim that Defendants, acting under color of state law, have wrongfully deprived and continue to deprive Plaintiff of a ‘meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation,’ thereby violating his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Federal and State Constitutions.”