Giving Compass' Take:
- Eli Hager explains that in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to end automatic life without parole it is unclear what states will do instead.
- How can funders help to develop, advance, and implement effective juvenile justice reform?
- Read about the impacts of prison on children.
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The Supreme Court ended automatic life without parole for children. What replaces it remains unclear.
Say you’re a teenager who has committed a serious crime, and a judge is about to sentence you to prison for a very long time.
How long a sentence would the judge have to hand down for it to feel essentially the same as being sent to prison for life?
States have been wrestling with this question over the past decade in the wake of multiple U.S. Supreme Court rulings that automatically sentencing juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional, because kids have a unique ability to grow and change and therefore deserve a second chance down the road. That forced courts and legislatures to consider what number of years to hand down instead to the more than 2,000 current prisoners nationwide who were originally sentenced as juveniles to mandatory life without parole.
The Supreme Court’s three landmark rulings were Graham v. Florida in 2010, Miller v. Alabama in 2012 and Montgomery v. Louisiana in 2016. They relied on modern neuroscience demonstrating that teens are impulsive, risk-seeking and easily influenced by peer pressure, all traits that can lead them to crime, and that because they are still maturing, they are less likely to commit another crime as they grow up. For these reasons, the justices found, they deserve an opportunity to reform themselves and then be released back into their communities for a meaningful period of time following their incarceration.
Yet after the rulings, many prosecutors and judges around the country began simply re-sentencing prisoners who had received automatic life terms to individual terms of 100 years or more—essentially a life sentence by another name.
Read the full article about ending automatic life without parole for children by Eli Hager at The Marshall Project.