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Young Offenders Essay

999 words - 4 pages


Young Offenders
Carol Welles
Coker College


Youth offenders are those persons charged with serious crimes who are usually under a specified age. Every nation has its own policy about dealing with young offenders. In the United States, each state has its own juvenile offender standards. The treatment of juvenile offenders in the United States has been uncertain, uneven, and controversial since colonial times. Recently the United States Supreme Court changed the juvenile justice system by declaring the frequently applied life without parole sentence to be unconstitutional. Juvenile justice systems have been forced to rethink options for ...view middle of the document...

(SC Code) Nearly half of the United States state governments have accepted age 17 as the boundary between juvenile criminals and adult criminals (Griffin, et. al). Recently Scotland gained headlines throughout Europe when the Scottish Parliament raised the age of responsibility for criminal acts from 8 to 12. At the same time Parliament created a more liberal policy of sentencing youthful offenders. Prison terms have been abandoned in favor of state operated secure care facilities.(Scotland)
In the United States, the state of California has recently earned high marks from juvenile justice organizations for passing a law that weakens the inflexibility of the juvenile sentence, life without parole. The new bill now provides for the possibility of parole after serving a sentence of at least twenty-five years. (Malenceva). According to the Human Rights Watch, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the United States is a signatory, prohibits juvenile sentences of life without parole for young offenders. Such a sentence is, in effect,
death sentence for children. Until recently, the United States was the only country in the world that still imposed the life without parole sentence on juveniles. (Human Rights Watch)
Not everyone in America favors liberalizing sentencing for youthful offenders. The National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers (NOVJM) has taken the position that not every juvenile criminal is susceptible to rehabilitation. In arguing against eliminating or weakening the life without parole sentence, the NOVJM claims that removing the possibility of life sentences for juveniles ties the hands of the juvenile justice system and puts society at risk. The NOVJM has suggested that courts must be allowed to consider all factors in a criminal situation in order to determine the best outcome for public safety, regardless of the age of the convicted offender. (Hare & Bishop)
The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) seems to have put to rest the issue of life without parole sentences for juveniles. In Roper v. Simmons (2005) the court ruled that executing juveniles under 17 years of age is unconstitutional...

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