Unjust Justice: Juveniles Serving Life Without Parole
The 14th amendment of Constitution of the United States grants every American Citizen the right of due process of the law. This right is being denied juveniles sentenced to “life without parole”. Recent Supreme Court rulings have held that “life without parole” is cruel and unjust punishment for those juveniles sentenced for non-homicidal crimes, because of limited capacity. Life without parole is essentially cruel and unjust punishment for all juveniles sentenced, regardless of crime committed. This paper will delve into the recent changes in juvenile sentencing of “life without parole” initiated by May 2010 decision of the court in Graham v. Florida and the unconstitutionally of life without parole for juveniles. It will briefly discuss the 14th amendment which involves due process and the 8th amendment which involves cruel and unjust punishment. It will argue that juveniles should not be sentenced to life without parole regardless of their particular crime. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution declares, ... “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. Individuals are protected by due process when the state is required to follow the law of the land. Due process is violated when a person is harmed when the government does not follow the intent and letter of the law. Juveniles caught in an adult criminal system and sentenced to life without parole has their due process violated. The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. The cruel and unusual punishments clause restricts the severity of punishments that state and federal governments may impose upon persons who have been convicted of a criminal offense. This paper contends that sentencing juvenile criminals to life without parole is cruel and unjust punishment. In 1899, the first juvenile court was established in Cook County, State of Illinois. The format used for the court was based on the doctrine parens patriae, which recognizes that the state is a parent and possess the right to intervene and protect children whose parents did not provide adequate care or supervision. The court’s primary concern was to provide rehabilitation and supervision. In the landmark case of In re Gault (No. 116), 99 Ariz. 181, 407 P.2d 760 (1967) the court ruled that the proceedings of the Juvenile Court failed to comply with the 14th amendment of the Constitution. It held that the proceedings for juveniles had to comply with the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment and those requirements including adequate notice of charges, notification of both the parents and the child of the juvenile's right to counsel, opportunity for confrontation and cross- examination at the hearings, and adequate safeguards against self- incrimination. During this particular time in the history of juvenile court, the court displayed marked differences from the adult criminal court in that it focused on the juvenile offender and not the offense of the juvenile; punishment was not the main focus. Most cases that were subsequently transferred to adult court were juveniles under the age of eighteen and were decided on a case by case basis. In the 1960’s, the Supreme Court formalized juvenile courts to make them more like criminal courts. Formal hearings were required in situations where juveniles were transferred to adult courts. This included a mandate that Juveniles sentenced to incarceration had to be given notice of criminal charges leveled against them as well as, the right to legal representation. Adjudication was not “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt”, instead of “a preponderance of evidence”. When the public seemingly become aware that juvenile crime was on the...
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