Whether juvenile killers deserve life sentences is a controversial issue. In more recent years, the trend has been to NOT impose life sentences on juveniles, regardless of their seriousness of the crime. Here are some of the benefits of not imposing life sentences on juvenile killers:
Shorter Sentences = Fewer Chances of Re-Offending
By reducing the sentence of a juvenile, they will be released back into society at a much younger age. This gives juvenile offenders a second chance to turn their lives around, and puts them in a position to become productive members of society.
Less Developed Brain Function
Studies have shown that the area of the brain associated with the development of sound judgement and control is not fully developed in juveniles. This means that their decisions, especially those made under pressure, are not as sound as those of an adult. This understanding should be taken into account when sentencing juveniles.
Accountability Without Incarceration
For cases involving less severe crimes, judges may incur alternatives to incarceration, such as:
- Restitution, whereby the juvenile must make the victims whole financially.
- Supervision, where the juvenile is closely monitored and must comply with rules and regulations.
- Anger management and other rehabilitative programs, which can help the juvenile develop positive coping skills and prevent further violent behavior.
Ultimately, the decision of whether juvenile killers deserve life sentences is left to the discretion of the judge. Judges must weigh the severity of the crime and the historical criminal record of the juvenile offender in making their decision. Even if life sentences are imposed, judges may still decide to reduce the sentences on appeal if sufficient mitigating factors present themselves.
It is clear that the case for not imposing life sentences for juvenile killers is strong, given the factors discussed above. As such, the trend towards not imposing life sentences on juvenile killers is likely to continue.