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July 7, 2015

"Juvenile Sentencing in Illinois: Addressing The Supreme Court Trend Away from Harsh Punishments for Juvenile Offenders"

The title of this post is the title of this notable piece by Maureen Dowling now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The United States Supreme Court has steadily been changing the way it approaches juvenile sentencing since 2005. This ideological shift has occurred as a response to the increase in biological and sociological studies, which point toward fundamental differences between juveniles and adults. This Note addresses how the new mandates by the Supreme Court have been implemented around the country, with a focus on statutory changes Illinois should make moving forward. Specifically, this Note argues that there are several adjustments Illinois will have to make in regards to the way it sentences juvenile homicide offenders, in order to be considered Constitutional based on the analysis set forth by the Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, and Miller v. Alabama.

First, lengthy, consecutive term-of-years sentences should be abolished because it does not give juvenile offenders the “meaningful opportunity for release” required by Graham.  This Note suggests that courts need to look at the idea of a “meaningful opportunity for release” differently when sentencing juveniles as opposed to adult offenders, because studies have shown that adolescents who are imprisoned have a much lower life expectancy than average.  Second, Illinois should amend its sentencing statutes to require judges to consider several factors, while on record at a sentencing hearing, before sentencing a juvenile homicide offender to life in prison.  These factors, laid out within this Note, will put Illinois at the forefront of ethical juvenile sentencing, while also ensuring that it does not violate the authority of Miller.  Admittedly, these theories have been criticized for being too ‘soft’ on punishment for juveniles who are convicted of felony murder.  However, the suggestions in this Note are meant to allow for the protection of the adolescent’s Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, while also considering the severity and nature of the offense.

July 7, 2015 at 03:09 PM | Permalink


I am a parent of a juvenile and I want to know how does the Juvenile statuary apply to the juvenile in Illinois? I also wanted to know if your child caught his case at 16, and was being charged as an adult are they suppose to have a hearing at all?

Posted by: Ms.Lee | Jan 9, 2017 9:54:17 AM

Hello,I want to know what is the mandatory sentencing for a juvenile considered a habitual offender?

Posted by: Rodney L Washington | Jan 25, 2017 9:16:50 PM

Where can I find the sentencing statutes as it pertains to juveniles and armed robbery?

Posted by: Ms. Mackey | Feb 16, 2017 2:32:13 PM

For the state of Illinois

Posted by: Ms. Mackey | Feb 16, 2017 2:34:20 PM

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