Should juveniles receive criminal life sentences?
We all make mistakes; some are obviously more serious and have long-standing consequences. When thinking back to when we were adolescents or teenagers, many of us can recall a few, if not more, poor decisions we made. Teenagers are often prone to over-reacting and feeling invincible. They also tend to not weigh consequences and act on impulse.
Recently the United States Supreme Court heard arguments related to whether or not juveniles should ever receive life in prison without parole sentences. Taking the cases of 2,500 juveniles, many whom committed crimes when they were as young as 13-years-old, into consideration, justices will ultimately determine whether teens charged with crimes should spend the rest of their lives in prison.
While family members of those killed by the serious crimes of juveniles often seek retribution in the form of a life sentence without parole, others advocate juveniles simply aren’t able to weigh the consequences of their actions and should not be punished for the rest of their lives for crimes committed during their adolescent years.
Currently, 39 states have laws that allow juvenile prison life sentences without parole in cases related to murder. The high court’s ruling will help determine if these laws are constitutional and also impact future rulings across the country and in states like California.
Many juveniles who commit crimes were born into violent homes and impoverished communities. While this certainly doesn’t give then license to commit crimes, steps towards rehabilitation should be explored rather than simply writing them off, locking them up and throwing away the keys to any type of future.
UPDATE: In the case of Miller vs. Alabama, (Case #10-9646, June 25, 2012) the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to ban mandatory life sentences for juveniles, and reaffirmed the juvenile justice system must recognize developmental differences between juveniles and adults