Out of all of the great powers in the world, the United States is the only country that still allows its courts to handout life sentences to juveniles who break the law. According to Lisa Yun (2011), A recent study conducted by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international revealed that there are currently at least 2574 inmates incarcerated in the United States who have been sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as adolescents (p. 728). With court cases such as Graham v Florid and Sullivan v Florida the court system has shown small progressions towards terminating a judge’s ability to deliver life sentences to juveniles, but it does not give a great time frame for when the courts might abolish this power. Appeals and pushes for no longer delivering life sentences have been made in cases like Miller v Alabama and Roper v Simmons, along with worldwide disagreement with the United States on the subject. The unconstitutionality of delivering a life sentence to a juvenile, which is said to be a violation of their eighth Amendment rights, has been questioned by many researchers. The many cases where juvenile offenders have received life imprisonment, for any type of crime they committed, not only is unethical, but also considered cruel and unusual punishment by researchers and should not be something a judge can hand down to juveniles who break the law. Court Cases
According to Fagan (2007), “Currently, 42 states permit juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences” (p. 735). Famous cases that involve the question of sentencing juveniles to life in jail without parole include Graham v Florida, Sullivan v Florida, and Roper v Simmons. In the case of Graham v Florida, Terrance Graham was only one month shy of turning eighteen when he was sentenced to life in jail without parole. Graham was originally arrested at the age of sixteen for armed robbery and spent a year in a pre-trial detention center before getting placed on probation for the next three years. When he was seventeen years old Terrance violated his probation with his involvement in a home invasion with two twenty-year-old friends. According to research, The court rejected the Florida DOC’s recommendations and concluded that Graham was incapable of rehabilitation and could not be deterred from committing future crimes. Instead of giving Graham the recommended one or two years prison sentence, the judge sentenced him to life without the parole. (Agyepong, 2010, p. 92).
Another case dating back to 1989 involves, then, thirteen year old Joe Sullivan, a mentally disabled African American and the youngest person in the country to ever be sentenced to life in prison without parole. On the day of the crime Sullivan broke into a home and stole some coins and jewelry from the owner. After leaving, later in the day the woman who owned the home was raped. Sullivan’s two co-assailants, when questioned, told police that Sullivan was the one who raped the woman. Research done on the trial shows that, “Despite a lack of biological or physical evidence linking Sullivan to the crime, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole…Prosecutors relied on the testimonies of Sullivan’s older co-defendants at trial to convict him, even though one of them could have been the true assailant. As a result of their testimonies, the older co-defendants were tried as juveniles and sentenced to short terms in a juvenile detention center” (Agyepong, 2010, p. 89). Sullivan is currently serving his sentence in an adult prison in Florida, but he is bound to a wheel chair due to multiple sclerosis. Appeals and Oppositions
The U.S. Supreme Court came to the conclusion that it was unconstitutional for offenders under the age of eighteen to receive the death penalty. This verdict was made in 2005 through the case of Roper v. Simmons, in which according to Fagan (2007)...
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