Supreme Court bars life terms in non-murder juvenile cases
Juveniles who have not committed homicide cannot be sentenced to life prison sentence, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today.

By a 5-4 vote, the court said locking up juveniles for life violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans cruel and unusual punishment. Young offenders should be given a chance to get their lives back on track, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority.

"A life without parole sentence improperly denies the juvenile offender a chance to demonstrate growth and maturity," Kennedy wrote in the case, which originated from the Florida state courts.

As of 2009, over 2,500 people were serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles, according to PBS. Most were in the state system but the figure included 37 federal juvenile cases.

"Historically, the federal juvenile population has consisted predominately of Native American males with an extensive history of drug and/or alcohol use/abuse, and violent behavior," according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. "These juveniles tend to be older in age, generally between 17 to 20 years of age, and are typically sentenced for sex-related offenses."

Get the Story:
Court rules out some life sentences for juveniles (The Washington Post 5/17)

Supreme Court Decision in Graham v. Florida:
Syllabus | Opinion [Kennedy] | Concurrence [Stevens] | Concurrence [Roberts] | Dissent [Thomas] | Dissent [Alito]

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