Supreme Court - No more life without parole for youth offenders
Decision grounded in lack of brain development in children.
On rare occasion, juveniles have committed crimes so heinous that juries have seen fit to sentence them to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. Now, the US Supreme Court has ruled that such a sentence is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.
Children under 18 who commit crimes no longer face the possibility of life in prison without parole.
A series of earlier cases has restricted what states can do to juvenile offenders. The court has previously ruled in 2010 that juveniles who commit non-homicide offenses could not be given life without parole, and in 2005 the court ruled that juveniles could not be sentenced to death.
Both of those decisions were written by Justice Anthony Kennedy who based part of his decision on scientific evidence that says a child's brain is not fully developed and therefore a child cannot make rational decisions and should not be held liable for such.
The most recent cases under review, involved two kids who were each 14 years old at the time of their crimes. One beat and burned a man to death while the other was involved in a robbery that resulted in the death of a convenience store clerk. The boys were charged as adults.
While such sentences are rare, estimates suggest there are at least 2,500 inmates serving life without parole for crimes they committed as children (under 18). About 79 individuals are serving life without parole for crimes committed while under 14.
A large part of this is America"s proclivity to sentence people to jail and prison for lengthy periods. The US has the world's largest per capita prison population.
The ruling does not however mean that youth offenders will soon return to the streets. The ruling simply provides a chance at freedom by offering the possibility of parole. Earning parole however, is a different challenge and will depend on the offender's attitude and his reception before the parole board.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
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Keywords: Supreme Court, children, life, sentences, punishment, crime, offenders, murder, parole
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