Setencing Juveniles as Adults
There are about 41,095 inmates who are facing life in prison without parole. Among these, 6.2% of those inmates (2,574) committed these crimes as juveniles. (Sentencing Juveniles) A vast majority of inmates are being held behind bars for crimes they committed under the age of 18. They aren’t given another chance to become law abiding citizens for a poor decision they made when they were just young rebellious teens. In fact, the united states is one of the only countries that still partake in the unjust act of allowing Juveniles to be sentenced as adults (Sentencing Juveniles). Worldwide, sentencing a person under the age of 18 as an adult is seen as excessively cruel and unjust. America, being a place of rights and justice, should be the first to ban this act.
America’s system of sentencing juveniles as adults is unconstitutional, gives them no room to change, and is unjust as the actions juveniles take part of are a poor indication of who they will be later in life. These sentences include putting juveniles on death row, or giving them life in prison without the possibility of parole. Juveniles who break the law do not deserve to go unpunished, but they always deserve a second chance to become valuable, law abiding citizens of the community. Teenagers are prone to acting more rashly and reckless than adults, which should be taken into consideration in the court of law.
In the Chandler v. Mississippi case, 2015, the convicting judge declared Joey Chandler as a “mature adult” in being 17 years old. The judge claimed 17 year olds perform adult-like tasks such as operating a vehicle or getting an abortion, therefore individuals such as Chandler should be sentenced like one. The judge also mentioned that a 17 year old who had been presented with the Medal of Honor from World War II was more than immature. Instead of giving the adolescent a death sentence, he had given him life in prison without the possibility of parole. “What the judge did not do before imposing life without parole was consider whether he could find that the defendant was irretrievably depraved” (Mukasey, McCord). The situation that surround this case is alike to many similar cases. Joey Chandler shot his cousin after he had stolen weed that was intended to sell to Chandler’s girlfriend. Once in prison, he had turned around his life through earning a high school diploma and had managed to keep a clean disciplinary record. Evidence such as this is should be used in the court to show that individuals such as Chandler deserve a second chance in the real world. Juveniles who are sentenced to life without parole however should be tested in some way to see if they are mentally stable. People who are said normal in their brain have room to change their perspective on life. “But in June the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional. The Court said they violate the Eighth Amendment ban on ‘cruel and unusual punishments’” (Smith). In cases like this involving such a young individual, being sentenced to life without parole is unconstitutional. A ruling such as this provides a little hope to individuals such as Chandler, but not enough to repeal his life-long sentence.
Juveniles who execute crimes that are large enough for the court to pronounce life without parole over their lives, are likely to be raised in environments that support this type of behavior. Everyone grows up with a role model, and when one’s role model isn’t the perfect example, it is likely that that individual will grow up to act similarly to their example. “”The separate juvenile system was developed both to mitigate these harms and because youth were being preyed upon and ‘schooled in crime’ while in adult prisons… Increased transfer has never been shown to reduce juvenile crime” (Maroney). Teenagers in the adult prison system are put at risk for their upcoming personal development, relationship skills, learning, and positive reactions to normal social situations that are treated differently in the outside world. When placing an adolescent in the adult system, it takes their chance of changing away and drives many negative traits into them that are norms in prison.
Many believe that if a law is broken, disregarding age, the same punishment should be inflicted. “Supporters say that dangerous people must be removed from the streets, regardless of their age. The 2,574 people serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles represent ‘the worst of the worst’people who have proven that they cannot live among decent, law-abiding citizens, proponents state.” This may be a valid point, but once you realize that you cannot define a person as “the worst of the worst” when their brain isn’t fully developed, it is hard to fight this point.
“ Sentencing Juveniles to Life Without Parole: Should Judges Sentence the Worst Juvenile Offenders to Life in Prison without Parole?” Infobase Learning – Login, 21 Aug. 2009, icof.infobaselearning.com/articles/crime,-law,-and-justice/sentencing-juveniles-to-life-without-parole.aspx?sr=1&tab=1&hd=1694.
Smith, Patricia. “Crime & Punishment” ProQuest: eLibrary, Sept. 17, 2012,
Maroney, Terry. “Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults?” Vanderbilt Law School, Vanderbilt University, 8 Jan. 1970, law.vanderbilt.edu/news/should-juveniles-be-tried-as-adults/.
Mukasey, Michael, McCord, Mary. “What Punishment Is Cruel and Unusual for a Crime Committed at 17?” SIRS Issues Researcher, 22 Sept. 2018, https://sks.sirs.com/webapp/article? artno=0000411098&type=ART