Monday, March 17, 2014

The Future of Juvenile Offenders: Evolving Standards of Decency

By Kristin Keehan
Kristin Keehan is a 3L at Albany Law School. She is currently a Senior Editor for the Albany Government Law Review and a Senior Editor for the Center for Judicial Process. She has worked as a research assistant for both Professor Lytton and Hirokawa, and has been a teaching assistant for both Professor Lytton's Torts class and Profess Hirokawa's Property class.
After graduation she will start as an Associate at Martin, Clearwater and Bell working in the field of medical malpractice.
This paper, prepared to satisfy the Albany Government Law Review's Note and Comment requirement, was written under the great advisement of Professor Mary Lynch.

Two recent United States Supreme Court decisions, Roper v. Simmons  and Miller v. Alabama, are drastically changing the sentencing schemes of juveniles. These monumental decisions from the country’s highest court determined that the sentencing of juveniles to death or mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole is barred by the 8th Amendment because evolving standards of decency indicate that such punishments are no longer accepted by society. These decisions, and others which are similar, indicate a positive shift away from the sentencing of juvenile offenders as adults to a focus on the rehabilitation of these youthful offenders.

This paper will discuss psychological studies of juveniles, which indicate that juveniles are underdeveloped. Accordingly, these studies advocate for sentencing schemes which allow for the rehabilitation of such juveniles. Next, the paper will discuss the case law surrounding “evolving standards of decency” leading up to the recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court regarding the sentencing schemes of juvenile offenders. Finally, the sentencing scheme of juveniles in the United States will be compared with that of other countries, with a focus on what the “evolving standards of decency” reflect on an international scale.
To read the paper, open HERE.