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Juvenile Justice: Fast Facts

Fast Facts

There have been three separate rulings since 2005 by the U.S. Supreme Court that have adjusted federal standards for juvenile sentencing by abolishing the death penalty, life sentences without parole for non-homicides, and mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles. These rulings reflect the impact of new research on adolescent development and highlight how many states are shifting toward treating juvenile offenders differently than adults. 

Between 2001 and 2011, 20 states passed laws to expand the jurisdiction of juvenile courts, such as by raising the age limit for juvenile offenses, she said. Other state trends include the passage of legislation improving young people’s access to sound legal defense, reallocating funds from correctional facilities to community-based alternatives, and focusing on young people’s mental health needs.

At least 10 states have passed laws to address racial disparities in the detention and incarceration of youth in the last 10 years, Brown said. And more than half of all states have passed laws aimed at supporting young people once they are released from detention or confinement.  from: http://www.youthtoday.org/view_article.cfm?article_id=5635 

  • The Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs does not outlaw all life sentences without parole for juveniles. It only bars states from mandating such sentences for any crimes, including murder. Experts who favor the ruling say it will give decision-making power back to judges, who may still decide to jail a person for life, depending on the specifics of an individual’s case.
  • About 2,500 prisoners in the U.S. are serving life sentences for crimes committed when they were
    juveniles (age 17 or younger). About 2,000 of them are serving mandatory sentences recently barred by the Supreme Court.
  • The U.S. is one of the few nations that have not signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of
    the Child, which bans life sentences without parole for juveniles.  from Junior Scholastic Sept 2012 http://junior.scholastic.com/resource/uploads_junior/Issues/091712/JS-091712-TE.pdf