Important Supreme Court Ruling

Posted: May 23, 2010 by lactoselazy in IDOC, Uncategorized

The US Supreme Court came out this week with a sensible ruling which prohibits juveniles who commit crimes while under the age of 18 from being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Advocates have been arguing that state courts are dealing too harshly with many juvenile offenders (the majority of which are black youths) who have been given life sentences without parole for offenses which, in some cases, are less than homicide. Critics to harsh imprisonment for youth point out that the states (particularly now) ordinarily lack the resources to and make little attempt to rehabilitate the youth inside the prison system, so those sentenced have been denied the possibility of demonstrating that they can later rejoin society. The Supreme Court agreed that this is a valid 8th amendment claim.

The court’s finding that life without parole in the context of juvenile sentencing constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment”, may open the possibility of challenges to other such sentences, particularly when based upon social pressures rather than the facts of the offenses.

The majority of the public is not as familiar with the nature of juvenile sentencing in most states and the terms of their imprisonment in compared to adult sentencing. Excessive imprisonment terms (such as in IL IDOC) for juveniles, and similar inequitable treatment is known to occur and is perhaps more common than realized considering the recent findings of attention given to juvenile cases. In the case of this ruling, there were some states (Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Oregon) who had already had the sense to outlaw imprisonment terms for juveniles without parole. It is too bad that it took the action of the court for the rest of the states to reach some humanity. Here is an article on the ruling.

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