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Supreme Court Hears Cases on Life Imprisonment for Juveniles

Posted on March 20, 2012

Photo by publik15, used with Creative Commons License.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on March 20th on two cases concerning the constitutionality of sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole. The cases, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, involve fourteen-year-olds sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of a homicide offense. Attorneys for Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson from the Equal Justice Initiative argue that convicting juveniles violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments’ prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Currently, 73 fourteen-year-olds nationwide are serving life-without-parole sentences. Two recent Supreme Court cases, Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida, ruled that sentencing juveniles to life without parole for crimes not involving a homicide was unconstitutional. Both of these recent decisions relied on critical social science evidence, including studies regarding adolescent brain development, to conclude that juveniles should not be beyond the opportunity for redemption.

Read summaries of Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama.

Read New York Times coverage of the cases.

Schubert Center Policy Director Gabriella Celeste played a key role in authoring the juvenile justice sections of House Bill 86, a recent reform of Ohio sentencing law. Read more about the bill. Download the powerpoint of an October 2011 talk about the reforms and the role Ms. Celeste, Faculty Associate Patrick Kanary, and the George Gund Foundation played in the reform process.

Page last modified: March 24, 2014