Juveniles Serving Life

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Juveniles Serving Life
Lisa Weiss
Saint Leo University

I. The Problem
The issue of juveniles serving life sentences, for non homicide offenses, is becoming a recognizable problem in the state of Florida and across the country. This punishment became enacted within the federal, state, and local judicial system when courtrooms and prosecutors were given permission to utilize prosecutorial discretion when deciding to send a juvenile to an adult court. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy felt this process was wrong when he stated: “there is no statutory differentiation between adults and juveniles with respect to authorized penalties” (Re, R.M., 2011, p. 367). A juvenile court system was intentionally created and designed to accommodate offenders under a certain age, who committed certain offenses. Consideration of sentencing was based on future recidivism, and possible rehabilitation for proper functionality within society. Yet, the courts do not appear to be separating this judicial process and are sending these young individuals directly to adult criminal courts as a preemptory strike against the potential for future crimes, as well as the protection of society as a whole (Brink, 2004). This paper will show both sides of the legal issues involved with juveniles serving life sentences, as well as researched data necessary to determine if the offenses committed truly match the punishment. Mitigating factors examined will consist of looking at the juvenile as an individual, their upbringing and societal influences, brain developmental stages, and the consequences and benefits necessary to consider when choosing to send a juvenile to jail for the remainder of their life. Finally, recommendations will be offered to determine the best courses of action for the court systems, who determine their ultimate fate, for your review and consideration. II. Factors Bearing on the Problem

Emerging psychopathological perspectives show how certain and particular exposures in upbringing and progressions in childhood development correlate with the potential for criminal behavior (Dishion, 2010). Academic success and positive peer relationships are critical to positive long term emotional and social development. Deviations from these factors bear great influence on adolescence susceptibility toward certain behaviors and delinquency (Dishion, 2010). * PUBLIC POLICY:

Due to judicial waivers, with over 210,000 juveniles are being tried in adult criminal courts yearly. This decision has been made in an attempt to protect the public from future criminals, without consideration of whether or not greater consequences outweigh the perceived benefits (Urbina, 2009). Many lawmakers, judges, and prosecutors are in favor of waiving a juvenile to adult criminal courts to send a message of harsher punishments, than those offered in juvenile court. The expected outcome is less crime and lower rates of recidivism (Urbina, 2009). * JUVENILES SERVING LIFE

Approximately 109 juveniles are currently serving life sentences across the country, 77 of those juveniles are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole in Florida (Hansen, 2010). III. Discussion

In An effort to understand juvenile delinquencies, we must start at an early point of juvenile exposures to better comprehend why we have allowed our justice systems to evolve to a point of lifetime incarceration sentences and the crimes being committed, to justify whether or not this is deemed cruel and unusual punishment (Bazemore & Terry, 1997). VARIABLES

Research has created certain causal factors where psychological brain development, family relationships, societal influences, and community interactions all play a role in the future behavior of a growing adolescent. Yet, every juvenile, along with differing exposures, must be viewed on an individual basis. This is not a one size fits all situation and the complexity of an assessment profile is not static...
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