High Court’s Juvenile Justice Rulings Influencing States On Teen Offenders


The Supreme Court's juvenile sentencing rulings establishing that youth should be treated differently from adults have had effects beyond the death penalty and juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences, says a report from the Models for Change project quoted by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The court's sentencing framework, based on adolescent development, has affected how states think about issues such as mandatory minimums, parole regulations, record expungement, enhanced sentencing, transfer laws and the correctional environment adolescents are placed in, says Models for Change.

Co-author Elizabeth Scott, a law professor at Columbia University, said the court's opinions have caused a shift in juvenile justice unlike any she has seen in decades. The rulings have resonated beyond the sentences the Supreme Court considered, she said. “It became clear that the Supreme Court opinions were having a broader impact and there was quite a bit of reform going on, some of it directly based on the opinions and some of it influenced by them,” she said. The authors examine three opinions since 2005 in which the Supreme Court prohibited the death penalty for juveniles (Roper v. Simmons), barred life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of crimes other than homicide (Graham v. Florida) and banned mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences (Miller v. Alabama). The rulings are grounded in behavioral and brain science that finds adolescents are still developing and therefore less culpable than adults and primed for rehabilitation.

Comments are closed.