Youth Today assess options for the Supreme Court in newly accepted cases on life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders, which were reported yesterday in Crime & Justice News. Just 18 months ago, the high court banned such sentences for juveniles in non-homicide offenses. A ban on “LWOP” for juveniles would affect more than 2,500 current inmates. More than half of them are in four states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Louisiana, and Florida.
A ban on LWOP for youths under 15 appears to be what will be sought by the offenders' lawyers, from the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative. There are only 73 current LWOP inmates who were convicted for crimes they committed when they were 14, and nine others who were convicted when they were younger. Another possibility is a ban on LWOP for youths who did not commit a homicide but merely were present for an action that precipitated it. There also could be required judicial review of juvenile LWOP usage in mandatory sentencing schemes, a ruling that seem to be in line with Chief Justice John Roberts' suggestions during the previous case that requiring review of LWOP in all juvenile cases would be more practical than a categorical ban on the sentence for certain offenses.