Juvenile Life Without Parole, Cruel or Just Unusual?

3441 words 14 pages
Juveniles Sentenced to Life without Parole

Cruel or Just Unusual?


Juvenile Sentencing: Life without Parole, Cruel or Just Unusual?

When the Judge announced the verdict “Guilty” there was a slight murmur in the court room as was expected. Then the Judge began to announce the sentence “Life in prison without the possibility of parole”, the words cutting through the air like an arrow through a paper target. The courtroom was an arena of mixed feelings, half cheering in a celebratory manner, the other half crying and shouting in disbelief. Someone’s 13 year old son was going to prison for the rest of his life without any chance of parole. Children should never be sentenced to life without parole, making the sentence in
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It peaked in 1996 at 152, and then began to decline; in 2003 when 54 youth offenders entered prison with this sentence. In the United States there are seven states that do not allow JLWOP sentencing, fifteen states along with the District of Columbia and the Federal system that allow a Judge discretion when it comes to sentencing juveniles, and twenty-eight states that have mandatory policies that require juvenile life sentencing with no Judges discretion allowed (see Figure 1).
The principal argument, and perhaps the most powerful, is a report filed in the Sullivan and Graham cases by the AMA (American Medical Association) and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. This report has to do with brain development. As most of society probably suspects, adolescent brains are different from adult brains, and the result is that adolescents have a more difficult time controlling their impulses and regulating their own emotional states. They are also more vulnerable to the temptations of risk-taking behavior, the rewards of peer approval, and other potential triggers of anti-social conduct. As a result, the argument is that adolescents who commit violent crimes are generally not as culpable (because they are not as capable of restraining themselves under a given set of circumstances) as adults who commit serious crimes. They are more likely to evolve