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NCJ Number: 220748 Find in a Library
Title: End Natural Life Sentences for Juveniles
Journal: Criminology & Public Policy  Volume:6  Issue:4  Dated:November 2007  Pages:735-746
Author(s): Jeffrey Fagan
Date Published: November 2007
Page Count: 12
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis; Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper presents arguments and a strategy for ending the sentencing of juveniles (persons under the age of 18) to life in prison without the possibility of parole (JLWOP).
Abstract: The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roper v. Simmons (2005) banned executions of persons who commit capital murder when they are under 18 years old. This decision overturned death sentences for 72 individuals in 18 States. Most were resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The "Roper" Court's reasoning is that the death penalty, which is considered the most severe penalty that can be applied to an adult, becomes cruel and unusual punishment when imposed on a juvenile. Whether or not the reasoning in the "Roper" decision can be extended to JLWOP depends on judicial assessments of its severity. To date, the death penalty has been in a punishment category of its own, separate and distinct from all other punishments in terms of its severity. Research, however, shows that juveniles subjected to long-term imprisonment suffer psychological and physical (often sexual) abuse in prison that reaches "cruel" but perhaps not unusual punishment. This suggests that living in prison from an early age until one's death constitutes a punishment equal to and perhaps more severe than being executed by the State at an early age. Life in prison for a juvenile is likely to constitute an extended period of conscious psychological suffering and deterioration in an environment that includes ongoing physical abuse as well. The recommended three-pronged strategy for countering JLWOP includes narrowing the scope of waiver/transfer statutes that transfer juveniles to adult criminal courts, limiting JLWOP eligibility to capital crimes, and abolishing JLWOP within States. 43 references
Main Term(s): Juvenile sentencing
Index Term(s): Cruel and unusual punishment; Effects of imprisonment; Juvenile capital punishment; Juvenile court waiver; Juveniles in adult facilities; Life sentence without parole; Prison conditions; Research uses in policymaking; US Supreme Court decisions
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