The US Supreme Court has repealed laws in a number of states that allowed children as young as 13 to be sentenced without the possibility of parole for non-homicide crimes. It was held that these laws fell foul of the Eight Amendment which forbids the use of cruel and unusual punishment.
Thirty-seven states have a law allowing for life sentence without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide offences. The 6-3 decision is not as straightforward as it appears however and two of the 6 majority justices believed the ruling should not have blanket application and should be used instead on a case-by-case basis.
The practice of imprisoning children for non-homicide offences effectively obliterated the possibility of hope for these young people; making a mockery of the stated respect for the rights of children and for the potential of rehabilitation. These laws proclaimed loudly that children who committed crimes were best written off and hidden from view until they died in federal prison.
It still remains the case, however, that children convicted of murder can be handed life sentences without hope of parole. The chance of redemption and the glimmer of hope should be maintained and fostered.
For a compelling reason to ban life sentences without parole for juveniles, watch the attached clip of Sara Kruzan.
- Guardian article: US Supreme Court repeals no parole laws for children serving life
- The New York Times article: Justices Limit Life Sentences for Juveniles