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Micheail Ward's 84-Year Sentence Sparks Debate About Elderly Inmates

CHICAGO (CBS)-- In court Monday, Cleopatra Cowley told the judge the punishment she wanted for the man convicted of murdering her daughter Hadiya Pendleton.

"Please give the murderer of my first born child Hadiya Pendleton the maximum the law will allow, the absolutely max," Cowley said.

Judge Nicholas Ford gave Micheail Ward 84 years in prison. Ward is 24 and now has, in effect, a life sentence.

Longtime victims' advocate Dawn Valenti believes the punishment is just.

"When someone sets out to hurt somebody, to take somebody's life knowing what you're doing, I mean I think your life should be taken just as well," Valenti said. "I think you should spend the rest of your life in prison."

However Alan Mills of the Uptown People's Law Center called the sentence inhumane and ineffective.

"Think about 40 years from now," Mills said. "He's not going to be the same man he is today, you'll literally be punishing someone entirely different. None of us are the same at the age of 20 as we are the age of 50, let alone 60, 70."

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, 2,741 inmates are 60 years and older and 520 inmates are over the age of 70.

Mills, who has represented older inmates, said taxpayers are housing prisoners who are no longer a danger.

"Practically speaking it's expensive and I know people who are in wheelchairs with a coloscopy bag," Mills stated. "What danger do they serve to the public? None, there's no danger whatsoever."

Still, Valenti has little sympathy for Ward and others who will grow old in prison.

"Hadyia will never be 75," Valenti said. "She'll never be 25, so yeah absolutely."

Mills and other advocates of criminal justice reform said punishment in Scandinavian countries is more beneficial. Sentences are typically no longer than 20 years no matter the crime and after that prosecutors have to prove inmates still belong in prison.

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