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Life Without Parole for Juveniles, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1643

Essay

Introduction

Life without parole for young offenders is a contentious issue across the world. Recent findings put U.S. and Somalia as the only countries across the globe that still allows life without parole for juveniles. Furthermore, the U.S. has witnessed an increase in cases involving children below the age of 18, which has resulted in ruthless penalties for these offenders. Despite a worldwide agreement that children require special treatment and protection, and should not be detained under the same standards and conditions as adults, the U.S. still allows children to be punished and treated as adults.  According to the Supreme Court, juveniles convicted of murder should not be subjected to a compulsory sentence of life without the option of parole. Even when found guilty of murder, judges ought to be permitted to take a juvenile’s age into consideration along with other appropriate conditions when deciding the suitable punishment to offer. This annotated bibliography examines the evidence that indicates juveniles are much different from adults in several ways like maturity levels and brain development. The findings have also questioned the reason as to why harsh adult punishment is forced on young children.

Agyepong, Tera. “Children Left Behind Bars: Sullivan, Graham, And Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences.” Journal Of International Human Rights 9.1 (2010): 83-102. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

This work looks at how life without parole (LWOP) violates the human rights of children who are given this sentence which is noted to be among the harshest penalty given to offenders in the United States. The author examines how the United Nations has adopted abolition of LWOP resolution for young offenders.

The work states that the United States is the only country with such a penalty for youth offenders. The author of this work refers to a specific case of LWOP for a child and argues that the Supreme Court wrongly decided to give a juvenile LWOP and that this decision violated domestic and international human rights laws. The author also presents legal arguments signifying that life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional and breaches the eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The author concludes with a debate of policy suggestions whether the supreme court of the U.S. should abolish life without parole for juveniles and the likely future direction of juvenile cases in the U.S.

Butler, Frank. “Extinguishing All Hope: Life-Without-Parole For Juveniles.” Journal Of Offender Rehabilitation 49.4 (2010): 273-292. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

The author examines how sentencing juveniles to life without parole (LWOP) has unethical implications. A study outlined in this work gathers information by interviewing 11 men sentenced to LWOP as juveniles.

The study examines their profiles, based on their backgrounds and experiences they lived as juveniles. The study states there were many common areas of ethical concerns in the men’s testimonies during the interviews, and this has raised concerned about some ethical and social policy issues as it relates to a punishment of LWOP for juveniles.

The study analyses that the court’s actions have not prevented other youths from committing crimes, in that it essentially makes them more aggressive and violent. It also states that the court’s actions have not rehabilitated the young children sentenced under them because the study showed that the young children who were sent into the adult structure had 35% more felony arrests after their release than those under arrest in juvenile facilities.

“Does Sentencing A 13-Year-Old Offender To Life Without Parole Constitute “Cruel And Unusual Punishment”? Pro.” Supreme Court Debates 13.1 (2010): 11-22. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

This work is a Pros side view of whether or not sentencing a 13-year-old to life without parole (LWOP) is an act of cruel and unkind punishment. The case study examined involves the sentencing of a 13-year-old male to LWOP for the rape and robbery of a 72-year-old woman in Florida.

This sentence was repeatedly appealed, based on cruel and unusual punishment being prohibited as outlined in the 8th and 14th Amendment to the Constitution. All of the appeals were subsequently denied. The author states that the defense in this case worked from the premise that juveniles were less seen as culprits in society than the average criminals.

The article also states the defense argues that imposing a LWOP sentence on a 13-year-old child sends the message that there is no hope or necessity for rehabilitation or character improvement because the LWOP sentence denies the child of hope. The study also discusses policy implications if the Supreme Court should abolish life without parole for juveniles. The study also explores the future direction of life without parole in countries that are still practicing it.

Johnson, Robert and Sonia Tabriz. “Sentencing Children To Death By Incarceration: A Deadly Denial Of Social Responsibility.” Prison Journal 91.2 (2011): 198-206. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

The authors of this work take an in-depth look at how society is responsible for denying juveniles punished to life without parole (LWOP) an opportunity to change and become better citizens though rehabilitation. This is because a LWOP sentence sends a message of no hope to the juveniles. The authors also send a message that juveniles have a greater prospects of reforming, therefore, they less deserve the most cruel punishments.

The study cites that children are immature as juveniles and are, therefore, less culpable than adult offenders. The idea of juvenile court is sound since offenders below the age of 18 are not fully matured, they should not be detained to the same accountability as adults. Because of this, the study examines the notion that juvenile offenders should not be subjected to such a final sanction as LWOP, which the authors note as death by incarceration.

This work concludes by mentioning how society fails to give youth offenders opportunities to mature and become well-adjusted adults, when they are sentenced to LWOP. It further mentions that lack of maturity along an underdeveloped sense of liability leads to impulsivity, recklessness and heedless risk-taking.

Savage, David G. “Supreme Court rules mandatory life without parole cruel and unusual.” Latimes.com. The Los Angeles Times, 25 June 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

The author examines a compulsory sentence to life without parole for people below the age of 18 who are sentenced for murder. The article reports that this type of sentencing will be limited, instead of mandatory, on the basis that judges will be required to consider youth and nature of crime in their rulings on life without parole.

The article cites the 8th and 14th Amendment, and its stance on prohibiting cruel and unusual punishments, as the basis for the passing of this new law. The author also states that children are vulnerable to outside pressures and negative influences, which they have very limited control over.

The work concludes that children lack the ability of getting themselves out of horrific and awful crime producing settings. It further states that a child’s character is not fully formed as an adult; therefore, his/her character and behavior are less fixed. The author reasoned that the findings for risk and inability to evaluate consequences lessened children’s moral culpability. As a result, the child’s deficiencies will be formed as the years go by, and neurological maturity occurs.

Conclusion

Since the introduction of juvenile courts over a hundred years ago, the fundamental statement underlying the system of juveniles has been that young offenders should not go through the adult courts. Juvenile courts were established to handle young offenders on the basis of their childhood rather than the crimes they have committed. Juvenile courts are there to offer guidance and treatment to young offenders rather than punishing them.

The current problem of juvenile crime calls for the need to punish juvenile offenders so as to deter the next age group of juveniles from being victims. Even when a juvenile is found guilty, a judge needs to take a juvenile’s age and other appropriate conditions into considerations when deciding a suitable punishment to offer.

Since children are not fully matured in terms of rational decision making abilities and brain development, they should not be detained to the same accountability as the adults. Changing of the social environment in which young children live is a successful way of reducing juvenile violence rather than punishing the young offenders in an adult court.

Argument Paper

Children can commit horrible crimes, and when they do so, they ought to be held responsible in a way that reflects their individual capacity for rehabilitation. In some states, the punishment is, however, not different to the ones given to adults. In the U.S., for example, there are over 3000 people serving a life without parole sentence for crimes they committed when they were below 18 years. Some states are believed to stand alone when it comes to sentencing of children without parole. However, some countries technically allow the practice without the knowledge of Amnesty International.

Life sentence without parole imposed on a defendant, who at the time of crime was below 18 years, violates international standards and law which are accepted universally by almost all the countries. However serious a crime may be, these standards recognize that children below the age of 18, who are still developing mentally, physically and emotionally, require a special kind of treatment in the criminal justice system, which is appropriate to their immaturity.

According to the Supreme Court, laws authorizing life without parole for juvenile offenders, without considering other options, are cruel punishments and unconstitutional. For it to be considered constitutional, life without parole for juveniles needs to have other lesser options and alternatives, which are consistently part of the offender’s background.

State legislatures should bring Somalia and U.S. into line with the international laws by getting rid of life without parole for juveniles because they are the only countries that have not approved this rule. It would be brilliant if the two states approved the Convention on the children’s rights and applied the agreement to state crimes. It is improper, and a violation of human rights for children to receive a life without parole punishment.

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