How much punishment is enough? Nowadays there are many heinous crimes being committed, but the issue is whether juvenile criminals should be tried as adults and given life in prison without the possibility of parole or if their cases should remain in juvenile courts where they may receive a more lenient punishment with room for growth and maturity. Not only are juvenile’s brains still developing through this time of adolescents, but mandatory life sentencing without parole was deemed unconstitutional in Miller V. Alabama. Juveniles should be responsible for their actions and held accountable for their crimes, but they are still minors and are less mature often times coming from abusive family backgrounds. Furthermore, juveniles should not be tried in courts as adults.
As stated by Sarah Jayne Blakemore, adolescents begins during the hormonal, biological, and physical changes of puberty, but doesn’t end until a person has obtained a stable independent role in society. Development doesn’t just stop at the age of eighteen and adolescents must be able to develop at their own pace and have access to appropriate support but they can’t do this if they are just carelessly thrown behind bars for the remainder of their lives. Another reason why adolescents are slower to mature and commit these heinous crimes is because child abuse might cause disordered psychological development and behavior problems(Can Fam Physician).
A 15-year-old boy, Jacob Ind, killed both his mother and his stepfather in the early morning of December 17, 1992. Jacob’s brother, Charles, said that the murders committed by his brother were the accumulation of years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from their parents. Jacob was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and was given a mandatory sentence of life without parole.(PBS) Jacob stated that he didn’t understand the gravity of the murder and due to his young age and abusive family it is possible that Jacob truly did not understand what he was doing and what consequences come with the actions that he had made. Jacob and may others sentenced to life as juveniles have shown that they are not that same juvenile murderer and have grown greatly in maturity and proved that given the chance of freedom they could live a new life and be a law abiding citizens, however, they will never be given this opportunity because of their life sentence without possibility of parole.
Miller v. Alabama in 2012 was the case of the murder of Cole Cannon by 14-year-old Evan Miller. This case originally ruled that Miller was guilty of the crime and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but when Miller had filled for a new trial on the basis that life in prison was a violation of his 8th amendment right. The court then with a 5-4 majority held that sentencing life to juveniles is cruel and unusual and therefore a violation of the 8th amendment.(Oyez)
Some people may claim that juveniles are fully aware of knowing right from wrong and must be punished just as an adult would because the crime is not of lesser value just because it is committed by a juvenile. However, juveniles at this time in their life are unable to comprehend someone else’s perspective and they could think that doing this action is the best way to solve the problem(Sarah Jayne Blakemore). If juveniles are given a chance to turn their lives around then maybe it will work for them instead of just throwing them into a prison full of adults from the rest of their lives.
During the period of adolescents, there is a lack of maturity, ability to comprehend others, and a mass grey matter in the prefrontal cortex that affects the actions of juveniles. Juveniles who commit serious crimes are being severely punished and their constitutional rights are being violated due to their actions, but the possible solution to juvenile crime could be a shorter sentence with proper rehabilitation, not sentencing than to life behind bars with no possible option of parole.
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