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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island is pushing for the release of a man convicted of murder when he was 17 years old.

The ACLU argues 39-year-old Mario Monteiro is eligible for parole through the Youthful Offenders Act, despite receiving two life sentences for the 2001 shooting death of a 31-year-old man in Providence.

Mario Monteiro (Courtesy: RI Department of Corrections)

The Youthful Offenders Act, which was signed into law two years ago, states that inmates sentenced prior to their 22nd birthday are eligible for parole after serving 20 years behind bars.

The ACLU said the statute, dubbed “Mario’s Law” after Monteiro, gives youthful offenders “an opportunity to demonstrate that they have matured from the person who committed the underlying crimes in their early years.”

The ACLU filed a petition earlier this year demanding Monteiro be released from prison immediately, saying he is being “unlawfully detained” after the Rhode Island Parole Board decided he had satisfied the requirements for his first life sentence.

But state prosecutors are interpreting the law differently, arguing the Youthful Offenders Act does not explicitly mention inmates who received consecutive sentences on additional charges.

Monteiro appeared before a Rhode Island Superior Court judge Wednesday in regard to his parole eligibility.

The ACLU believes the state’s interpretation is “absurd and illogical” because it “defeats and denies the intended purpose of the act,” which is to give youthful offenders a second chance.

“The Youthful Offenders Act supersedes any contrary provision applicable to adult offenders, because it is self-contained, unambiguous and of later date,” the ACLU explained.

Without intervention, the ACLU argues that Montiero will remain incarcerated until at least November 2031, which is when he would be considered for parole again should the court uphold the state’s interpretation of the law.

The judge took both the ACLU’s and the state’s arguments into consideration. It’s unclear when a decision will be made.

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