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February 27, 2009

An effort to address juve LWOP in California

This local story from California, headlined "Senator takes aim at juvenile prison terms," provides encouraging news about an effort to address one type of extreme sentence:

Juveniles convicted of crimes should still risk being sentenced to life in prison without parole but have their terms reviewed after 10 years for possible re-sentencing, according to the San Francisco state senator who is taking a second stab at decreasing the number of minor convicts without hope of freedom.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, introduced Senate Bill 399 which, if passed, would not offer the complete overhaul he suggested last year but tweak current law so those convicted under age 18 have a second shot at release from custody.

“Children have a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults,” said Yee. “The neuroscience is clear; brain maturation continues well through adolescence and thus impulse control, planning and critical thinking skills are still not yet fully developed.”...

Approximately 200 juveniles in the state are currently serving life without a parole — the alternative to capital punishment for first-degree murder and special circumstances, according to Yee.  In comparison, only 12 juveniles in the world outside of the United States are serving the term, he said.

Though I am not sure about the numbers set forth in this final paragraph, it is certainly accurate that America's affinity for juve LWOP puts us far out of the international mainstream a lot more than America's affinity for capital punishment.  And yet, precious few politicians and public policy advocates are vocal and persistent critics of this kind of extreme sentencing, even through there are plenty of politicians and public policy advocates who are are vocal and persistent critics of the death penalty.

Some related posts on juve LWOP:

February 27, 2009 at 10:43 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"...it is certainly accurate that America's affinity for juve LWOP puts us far out of the international mainstream a lot more than America's affinity for capital punishment. "
Who cares what goes on in other countries. Just because young people can commit murder and be given a slap on the wrist does not mean we should do the same.

Also, some crimimals do not deserve a second chance. Even if they are young. The fact that the criminal is 'sorry' and "rehabilitated" does not change that fact.

Posted by: Ralph | Feb 27, 2009 11:53:11 AM

"And yet, precious few politicians and public policy advocates are vocal and persistent critics of this kind of extreme sentencing, even through there are plenty of politicians and public policy advocates who are are vocal and persistent critics of the death penalty."

I think generally LWOP sentences are not given the attention they deserve. These sentences get much less scrutiny and less consideration in the courts than a death sentence, even though LWOP is often the most severe sentence a defendant faces. In my experience, it is almost impossible to get a court to really consider whether a LWOP sentence violates the 8th Amendment or to review it on any other ground. I hope other states will consider revising their juv LWOP statutes as well.

Posted by: Amanda | Feb 27, 2009 1:37:06 PM

Let's take this law school exam style. A pair of twins, Dave and Don, are born at 11:55 pm March 31 and 12:05 am April 1. Eighteen years later they decide to celebrate Dave's birthday by raping and murdering 6 little girls, a celebration they complete before midnight.

Dave receives his well-deserved sentence of death. Don was exempt from that sanction by California statute even before Roper, but now Senator Yee would exempt him even from LWOP.

Yes, Senator, the neuroscience is clear, and it does not support sharp cut-offs at arbitrary dates.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Feb 27, 2009 4:25:26 PM

Kent, Then will you join with me in arguing that no arbitrary date should be imposed upon which an individual can vote or drink.

For instance, I think it is far more productive to look at a person's education or accomplishments in deciding whether they can vote, than their age. So, in a perfect world, members of the bar could vote, but others could not because they lack the necessary maturity and accomplishments.

Ralph, Nobody is receiving a "slap on the wrist." However, you have representing someone facing 10, 20, or 50 years in jail, you will probably keep calling such large sentences a slap on the wrist as opposed to LWOP.

Posted by: S.cotus | Feb 27, 2009 4:37:08 PM

Arbitrary age limits for drinking and voting are imposed not because they genuinely determine when a person is sufficiently mature but because the cost of individual assessment for the entire population is prohibitive. Yes, I would advocate getting rid of them if it were feasible to do so.

Individual assessment for the very few people who commit murder is entirely feasible.

"So, in a perfect world, members of the bar could vote, but others could not because they lack the necessary maturity and accomplishments."

For those who may be wondering whether statements along these lines by the person who calls himself "S.cotus" are true obnoxiousness or an unsuccessful attempt at being satirically witty, we established in an earlier thread that it is the former.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Feb 27, 2009 7:05:33 PM

We've also established S.cotus' lack of talent when he decided to talk about selective incorporation . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Feb 27, 2009 8:21:53 PM

Kent, based on your hypothetical, are you a juvenile court abolitionist? Because I think that you'd have to be in order to be logically consistent.

Posted by: Jay Macke | Mar 2, 2009 10:26:20 AM

Jay, a juvenile court system with discretionary transfers to adult court based on an individualized determination is fully consistent with my position.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Mar 2, 2009 12:13:21 PM

I see your point. I still don't think it's entirely convincing, since 1) discretionary bindover schemes operate as a one-way ratchet, and 2) juvenile court have an "arbitrary" jurisdictional cutoff of 18. But insofar as your hypo was designed as a potential illustration rather than rule in itself, I definitely understand what you're getting at.

Posted by: Jay Macke | Mar 2, 2009 3:38:44 PM

There are big difference in law pertaining to juvenile, in other country, they created a law that favors to juvenile, it is base upon the gravity of the offense they made and if the offense they made is with or without discernment.

-mj-

Posted by: teen addiction treatment | Mar 3, 2009 4:39:47 AM

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