Minors With Sentences Of Life Without Parole Getting A Second Chance in the USA

Consideration has been given for the editing and publishing of this post

We have all done something that we aren’t proud of, and as anyone knows, it is hard to make up for our sins. When it appeared that perpetrators of heinous crimes were getting younger and younger, there are those who stood up and insisted that their actions were not of a child, but they were of an adult, and they should be prosecuted as such.

Many in prisoners are living a life sentence that started paying their sentence even before their lives began. A new Supreme Court Decision may be giving some of those who made mistakes in their youth, hefty inexcusable mistakes like domestic assault and battery, a second chance.

This past Monday the Supreme Court ruled that juveniles who have received, or who will receive life sentences, are eligible to seek parole. That means that as many as 2500 inmates who were not eligible before may be given a second chance at freedom.

Those who would have otherwise never have seen the outside of prison walls are being granted the opportunity to plead their case for a new try. Juveniles who committed murder, and received a life sentence, are now being given the opportunity to argue for their release.

Furthering the law in 2012 that disallowed the then mandatory life terms for juveniles who commit murder, the new ruling is likely to affect thousands who were sentenced before the ruling was struck down. Many of those who will be eligible are located in just three states, Louisiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Those three are the states which in 2012, had made the decision that the are ruling would not be retroactive. Being overturned, those within the three districts will now be reconsidered for release.

Justice Kennedy, leading the charge, insists that even in the most heinous of crimes, you can’t possibly equate children with adults. Having different brain structures and the inability to reason in the same way, he insists they can’t be held accountable for their actions in the same manner. Since 2005, capital punishment has been stricken from options for minors, and they also could not receive a sentence of life without the potential for parole unless murder were the crime.

The case that took the issue all the way to the Supreme Court was Miller v. Alabama where Henry Montgomery of Louisiana was convicted as a minor at 17 when he shot a sheriff’s Deputy. Although initially not being included in the ruling for a second chance at parole, the new ruling now makes him eligible. Kennedy believes that there are some juveniles who really have been rehabilitated and should be allowed a second chance.

There are scholars on both sides who believe that it is a risky practice to hold juveniles responsible for their actions in the same way that you do adults. Not having the same intellectual capacities, nor the same ability to decipher right from wrong, it is difficult to have a one size fits all and assume that you are making the right decision across the board for every minor in every situation. There are many who, are opposed to mandatory sentences for children in any circumstance, leaving the ruling and decisions for punishment where it is supposed to be, on the sitting judge.

The refractoriness of the ruling is due to Kennedy’s insistence that those who came before are no less worthy of the same eligibility simply because their case came before ruling and reason. Overruling the findings of Louisiana, the new judgement took precedence over the one before not to retract the eligibility for parole for any juveniles who were subjected to sentences of life without parole in murder cases at any point in history.

Justice Scalia feels that the new ruling is counter to what is right and that juvenile cases should hold when they commit crimes that are outside of reason. Those that are so heinous that rehabilitation would not be possible should not be considered for parole. He also believes that Kennedy was wrong to take away the retroactive stipulation.

Kennedy believes that the law will prevail. If a juvenile is un-rehabilitated, they will not get parole. The justice system will do its job to keep those who are still dangerous where they belong. What he may be overlooking are the times when those who have been released have gone on to commit crimes. A very complex issue, it is likely to resurface again in the future.

March 24, 2016 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: Uncategorized