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March 3, 2008

Still more concerns about juve LWOP

One of the most clear impacts of the Supreme Court's decision to make juveniles ineligible for the death penalty has been greater public policy and public attention given to juveniles sentenced to very long prison terms.  The latest example of this attention comes in the form of this new Washington Post article, headlined "Illinois Weighs Second Chances: Some See Juvenile Sentencing Laws As Overly Harsh."  Here is a snippet:

Illinois's mandatory life sentence law, with its tough provision for people whose role in a crime may have been small, was passed in the late 1970s at a time of concern over rising youth crime rates. Now, however, it is now being challenged.

A coalition of human rights groups, defense lawyers and lawmakers is backing legislation to do away with mandatory life sentences for juveniles and to reconsider the cases of those who were sentenced as juveniles and are serving now....

In Illinois as in other states, the combination of mandatory transfers to adult court and mandatory life sentences for certain crimes means a teenager could end up with a life sentence for serving as an unarmed, perhaps unwitting, accomplice -- a lookout or driver -- during a murder. State Rep. Robert Molaro (D-Chicago) has introduced legislation that would end life sentences without parole for juveniles. Colorado banned such sentences in 2006, and similar legislation has been introduced in Nebraska, Florida, Michigan and California.

Israel is the only other country that sentences juveniles to life without parole. It has seven in detention, compared with more than 2,300 in the United States, according to a report by a coalition led by Northwestern University Law School's Children and Family Justice Center and the John Howard Association.

Some recent related posts on juve life sentences:

March 3, 2008 at 01:58 PM | Permalink


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Doug: You often portray the relationship between concern about the death penalty and concern about excessive imprisonment as though they are part of an economy. Expending resources -- monetary, moral, political -- in one area necessary diminishes the resources available for the other. Of course, to some important extent, this is the case. And I take seriously your critique that attorneys, judges, politicans, and the press expend too many resources on the death penalty and too few on overincarceration.

But the first sentence of your post made me wonder if the relationship between the death penalty and overincarceration is always, necessarily one of economy. For example, might one argue that the movement to ban the juvenile death penalty helped to further the movement against juvenile LWOP -- that these two movements are augmenting, not diminishing each other's resources.

Posted by: dm | Mar 3, 2008 5:37:41 PM

There are some juve murderers who ought to never be let out (Lee Malvo). There are others who should (Tim Kane, if this article is correct). The hard part is telling the difference.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Mar 3, 2008 6:55:55 PM

And, William, I might add, how to allocate the risk of uncertainty about who is safe to let out.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 3, 2008 7:40:55 PM

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