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Juvenile Life Sentences Ruled As Unconstitutionally Cruel

The state of Missouri has changed its law to comply with a US Supreme Court ruling that deems juvenile prisoners sentenced to die in jail as unconstitutional.

The state justices said Carr’s youth and maturity level at the time of the crime must be weighed in determining whether life without parole for 50 years is fair.

The Supreme Court has ruled in different motions over recent years that harsh punishments applied to adults are unconstitutionally cruel and unusual when imposed upon juveniles.

States across America are now adopting new laws that prohibit mandatory life-without-parole sentences for anyone under the age of 18.

However, the Associated Press has found that resentencing for those who received life sentences prior to the ruling has not been forthcoming. Experts say that states across America are having a challenging time when it comes to changing or imposing the law.

Research shows that adolescents develop at a much different rate to adults, the brain is susceptible to manipulation. Experts say that peer pressure is more likely and that committing reckless acts without considering the long-term impact is more common for the young than for adults.

Sentencing Youth as Adults; Justice?

“To punish youths with the same severity as adults and to then make those sentences mandatory — taking away any discretion to weigh each offender individually — fails to consider that difference or the potential for rehabilitation, the court said in determining that no-release sentences are unconstitutional for all but the rare juvenile whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility,” Associated Press writes.

A young man behind bars- juvenile life sentences ruled

According to the state Department of Corrections, there are 94 inmates in Missouri serving life without parole for murders committed under the age of 18. Since the fall of 2016, 20 out of 23 juveniles on life sentences who have sought release have been denied.

The MacArthur Justice Center has filed a suit against the Missouri Department of Corrections and the state’s parole board accusing them of running a system that denies juvenile lifers a fair opportunity for release. It will go to trial next year.

In a landmark case, the Missouri court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Jason Carr, in a 5-1 ruling. In 1983, Carr received a life sentence for killing his brother, stepmother and stepsister when he was just 16. Now 50-years-old, Carr is serving three life sentences without the possibility of parole for 50 years.

According to new laws, Carr’s sentence violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. “The state justices said Carr’s youth and maturity level at the time of the crime must be weighed in determining whether life without parole for 50 years is fair. If it’s not, the trial court must vacate his conviction and instead find him guilty of second-degree murder, which is punishable either by 10 to 30 years or up to life in prison,” the Associated Press said.

The Missouri Supreme Court is continuing to rectify the problems with juvenile sentencing. Other States across America are slowly doing the same. But, the considerations that juveniles should receive lesser sentencing than adults are thankfully becoming widely adopted across America.

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