The second argument stems from the first and addresses a juvenile’s heightened capacity for change. With immature brains and increased susceptibility to their environment, juveniles are the perfect candidate for rehabilitation. Although many argue certain people are bad to the core, what judge or jury could make the determination that an offender is “irredeemably depraved” and therefore incapable of change? With juveniles sentenced to LWOP, a judge or jury has done just that. Criminal justice professionals must be given the authority to determine in individual cases if criminal behaviors were created by the qualities of youth or by bad character.
Another consideration created by a juvenile’s neurodevelopment is the difficulty counsel has representing them. Juvenile clients are impulsive, have difficulty thinking in the long-term and are reluctant to trust adults. This creates an environment of ineffective counsel.
Although many professionals applaud the Court’s decision, some believe this is a slap in the face for the victim’s of juveniles who have committed heinous crimes prior to the age of 18. This is not true. Even though LWOP has been held unconstitutional, a State is not required to guarantee eventual freedom for an offender just because LWOP is not a sentencing option. An offender’s release can be based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. If an offender continues to show poor judgment and criminal proclivity, they remain in corrections finishing out their sentence. A sentence that is not disproportionate based on the age at which they committed their crime.
Under the Eighth Amendment, the State is tasked with respecting the human attributes of an offender regardless of the seriousness of their crime. It is precisely these human attributes of juveniles that must be considered and why they must be treated differently than adults. The U.S. Supreme Court agrees. Even the dissenting justices did not argue this point. They simply stated it was the legislature’s responsibility to determine sentencing and not the courts. Children are children. We cannot change the rules just because we don’t like their behavior.
- The Writing Hand
- Graham v. Florida (Requires Acrobat Reader)
- Miller v. Alabama (Requires Acrobat Reader)
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About The Author:
Michelle Perin has been a freelance writer since 2000. Her credits include Law Enforcement Technology, Police, Law and Order, Police Times, Beyond the Badge, Michigan State Trooper, Michigan Snowmobiler Magazine and Chief of Police. She writes two columns a month for Officer.com. Michelle worked for the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department for almost eight years. In December 2010, she earned her Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University. Currently, Michelle works as the Administrative Coordinator at Jasper Mountain a residential psychiatric facility for children. In her spare time, she enjoys being the fundraising coordinator for the Lane Area Ferret Shelter & Rescue, playing her bass, working on her young adult novel Desert Ice and raising her two sons in a small town in Oregon.