Washington, D.C. – The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) praised the United States Supreme Court ruling that eliminated life sentences for youth without the possibility of parole, except in cases of murder. In doing so, the group says, the court is reaffirming research that shows that youth can be rehabilitated and should be given the possibility of someday going home.
In the case, Graham v. Florida, the Court stated, “A state is not required to guarantee eventual freedom to a juvenile offender convicted of a non-homicide crime." The majority opinion added, "What the state must do, however, is give defendants… some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation."
“We are pleased that the Court ruled in favor of fairer treatment of youth and realized the proven potential that young people have for rehabilitation as they mature into adulthood,” said JPI’s executive director, Tracy Velázquez. “The research on adolescent brain development clearly shows that youth are different from adults and should be treated differently under the law. Sentencing youth to life without parole is truly ‘cruel and unusual punishment,’ and is far outside the norms in almost every state as well as internationally.”
Velázquez added, “The Supreme Court was right to recognize that refusing to consider parole for a person locked up since they were a teenager benefits no one. While this is a step in the right direction, we’d like to see more changes in sentencing practices for both youth and adults, especially those shown to unfairly and disproportionately impact communities of color. In the United States we have locked up too many people for too long, without regard to the negative impact incarceration has on our country. We need to make better use of the many other evidence-based practices we have available that protect public safety and strengthen communities at the same time. ”
For more information on JPI and its research on alternatives to incarceration, please visit www.justicepolicy.org.
The Justice Policy Institute (JPI), is a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to reducing society’s use of incarceration and promoting just and effective social policies.
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