Until June 2012, the US justice as well as the corrections department convicted juveniles to a sentence of life imprisonment without a possibility of parole when it came to the hearing of murder charges. This consequently meant that by 2010 the corrections department held over 2500 cases where a murder or an offense equaling to it behind its prison walls (Shilling, p.26). It should be noted that juvenile justice initially achieved its popularity in 1899 where courts held minors accountable of their criminal actions in a capacity similar to adults. This would consequently suggest that children under the legal age of being recognized as adults would be punished with life sentences or even death when it came to offences such as murder (Whitehead, p.410). However, with time the juvenile justice structure has gone through progressive changes and more in particular the act passed by the Supreme Court not to sentence minors to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole a legal charter currently adopted by about Twenty-nine states. This paper takes into account the ruling by the highest courts in the land in a supporting role and is explained as below.
The Supreme Court in their presentation did not only state that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment on the basis of their age but equally on “relevant circumstances” that led to the criminals act itsel7 (Shilling, p.26). The report used to pass this message specifically stated that appropriate occasions for pass judgment on a minor to harsh penalties such as spending a lifetime behind bars is inhumane and uncommon in other regions due to the facts surrounding such cases. For example in 1995, Sara Jessimy Kruzan aged 17 was charged with a life sentence for the killing of her PIMP who after analysis and years of investigation was found to have continuously for five years physically offended his killer (Becker, p.234). In 2013 prior to her release it was noted that Sara had Battered person syndrome and her actions though leading to the death of her PIMP were instigated by a series of emotional, physical, as well as sexual abuse from her victim. Though most similar but the Supreme Court review of the Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S and the Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. also found that the accused parties only acted under condition and their actions were in reference to their ages and cognitive abilities understandable (Greenawalt, p. 415).
The principle role of the juvenile system is to offer offenders such as Sara with the chance to rehabilitate and consequently avoiding the stigma, labeling as well as the ability to enjoy their rights most of which was previously violated. Life imprisonment without parole underplays this principle role and adds to the destruction of personalities. In a video uploaded on YouTube Sara Jessimy Kruzan clearly states that she was an over achiever in school but due to her mother drug addiction she was forced to the streets to find life for herself. She was released at age 35 with all her abilities as a young girl diminished. In addition to this her skills set at age 17 during her conviction stand limited chance to have a comfortable life in a world much different than she left behind. That is extra punishment as she might take a longer time to integrate with society. Juveniles should be investigated, analyzed and helped to join the society after rehabilitation in an appropriate fashion and not locked up in prison.
Shilling, Dana. Lawyer’s Desk Book. S.l.: Wolters Kluwer Law & Bus, 2015. Print
Whitehead, John T. Juvenile justice: an introduction. Routledge, 2012.
Becker, Jo. Campaigning for Justice: Human Rights Advocacy in Practice. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2013. I