October 22, 2007
A recent article in The New York Times describes the escalating debate over whether juveniles accused of violent crimes ought to be given life in prison with no possibility of parole. In a UN vote last December, the US was the only country out of 186 to vote against abolishing the practice. The issue pits the American criminal justice system against the European model which puts an emphasis on rehabilitation. Only as recently as 2005 has the US ended the practice of capital punishment for underage offenders, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in Roper v. Simmons. Prosecutors and victim’s rights groups claim that some crimes are so heinous that even those as young as 14 ought to be imprisoned for life, citing the possibility of recidivism. However, others such as Bryan Stevenson of Equal Justice Initiative, which represents many such young clients, feel differently. Stevenson argues that “there is always hope for a child” and that while immediate release of convicted criminals is not on the agenda a formal review of the process is vital. To read more, please click here .