Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentencing

Michigan ranks second in the country for juvenile life without parole sentences, with 356 inmates sentenced to die in prison for crimes they committed when they were children.

Under Michigan law, a juvenile as young as fourteen can be automatically waived to adult court, convicted, and receive a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole - with no consideration of how age or development may affect cognitive capacity, competency, or culpability for the crime.

In the 2010 decision, Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court concluded that it is unconstitutional to give a sentence of life without parole to a teen who is convicted of a non-homicide crime. One inevitable question follows; that is, whether that same logic will be applied to youth who have been convicted of homicide.

Emerging science shows, and the Supreme Court has recognized in both Graham v. Florida and its predecessor, Roper v. Simmons, that the culpability level of a child cannot rise to that of an adult. Despite this Supreme Court recognition, states are still permitted to sentence children to an adult punishment only second to death.

On March 20, 2012, the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments directly concerning juvenile life without parole in Miller v Alabama and Jackson v Hobbs.

Transcripts for Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs:

The Supreme Court blog was also just released and it provides a detailed preliminary analysis here:

Additional news coverage:

Don't put juveniles in jail for life - By Laurence Steinberg, Special to CNN

“Supreme Court to Review Juvenile Injustice,” by James Fox

“Jailed for life at age 14: US Supreme Court to consider juvenile sentences”

“U.S. Supreme Court should give juveniles the chance to prove they've changed,” by Father Greg Boyle

“Ex-Prisoners Say Life Term Is Cruel for Teens, As Case Hits High Court”

“Teens change, given a chance”

“Should Juveniles Receive Life Without Parole?”

“US Supreme Court considers Alabama case of 14-year-old murderer on Tuesday”