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Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentence for Non-Homicide


The development of Juvenile non-homicide as a social problem has remained a central focus within the corridors of juvenile justice, attracting wide interest among social researchers. The conviction of teenagers to life imprisonment has triggered several arguments across the board, with one group supporting the act while the other against it. Under such this arrangement, teenagers are expected to spend their natural life in prison with the possibility of being “released” coming only at their time of death. However, there is evidence that shows that no other country in the world has in any practical situation imprisoned a juvenile offender for the rest of his or her life without the possibility of parole (Midgley, 1997). The models of social order in society have been used to explain some of the phenomena in the case of juvenile life convictions. This paper discusses the Functionalist Perspective or Functionalism as some would refer to it, and the Conflict Perspective in trying to understand the practical case of the issue at stake.

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Juvenile non-homicide has developed into a social problem that has remained a central focus within the corridors of juvenile justice, drawing a wide range of interest from researchers within social welfare. The recent update by Human Rights Watch Report, dubbed “The Rest of Their Lives: Life Without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States”, it was revealed that there are 2,574 inmates in the United States, who at the time of their criminal offense were juvenile and who received a life sentence without the possibility of parole (Newsire, 2009). The teenagers are therefore expected to spend their natural life in prison with the possibility of being “released” coming only at their time of death. However, there is contrasting evidence that shows that no other country in the world has in any practical situation imprisoned a juvenile offender for the rest of his or her life without the possibility of parole except the United States (Midgley, 1997).

How then can we define a “juvenile life without parole sentence for non-homicide”? According to Healy (2001), a Juvenile is considered any person who is below the age of 18 at the time when he or she commits an offense, while living simply means the natural lifespan of an individual, without parole means the criminal has no possibility of being released by a state parole board, and non-homicide is any criminal conviction where the juvenile is not convicted of any type or degree of homicide i.e. it does not include any convictions for attempted homicides or a conviction for felony murder (if the juvenile has not killed anybody but is convicted as an accomplice to murder).


Legal case: The Supreme Court will decide if life in prison without the possibility of parole is constitutionally legal in cases involving juveniles in non-homicide cases. This case is based on two Florida cases; (1) a 13-year-old who was convicted of rape and burglary and (2) a 17-year-old who was convicted of an armed home invasion while on probation due to an earlier violent crime (Reuters, 2009).

Sociological perspective: This case will decide if juveniles are developmentally incapable or capable of making decisions that would require the sentence of life in prison. Historically, adult principles and standards have been used to develop standards of sentencing. By using current research about juvenile brain development new standards of sentencing can be developed (Newswire, 2009).

Psychological perspective: The outcome of this case will determine if each individual juvenile is developmentally less responsible than each individual adult. In determining cases and culpability, the Supreme Court is being asked to disregard individual differences and instead make broad determinations based on group data and research. Individuality is out and each juvenile is the same as the next.

Scope: This decision not only affects the above-mentioned convicts but also affects society as a whole. There is the possibility that only two groups will remain – those under 18 and those above 18. The question becomes then how can we as a society classify people by age only. The outcome of this court case will affect all areas of juvenile life and it will take away the responsibility one needs to develop into an adult.

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Processes and policies: The outcome of the Supreme Court case to determine the constitutionality of life in prison without parole in non-homicide cases involving juveniles will affect juveniles already sentenced, juveniles awaiting sentencing, and juveniles who have not yet been charged. The outcome will determine if juveniles are able to make adult decisions or if they are developmentally not able to make responsible decisions. If it is determined that juveniles can not be sentenced to life without parole, then it is also determined that all juveniles are of the same developmental level and individuality is no longer relevant.

Historical perspective

The above cases had no murder involved, i.e. they are non-homicide cases and the juvenile was convicted and sentenced to life without parole sentences. The fundamental question thus rose considering the two cases: Does a juvenile life without parole sentence for a non-homicide offense violate the Eighth Amendments’ prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment? (Colb, 2009).

What’s the genesis of this case? An article by Colb (2009) recently featured in New York Times focused on the case of Joe Sullivan. The following are the excerpts from the Times article: “In 1989, someone raped a 72-year-old woman in Pensacola, Fla. Joe Sullivan was 13 at the time, and he admitted that he and two older friends had burglarized the woman’s home earlier that day. But he denied that he had returned to commit the rape…The trial lasted a day and ended in a conviction. Then Judge Nicholas Geeker, of the circuit court in Escambia County, sentenced Mr. Sullivan to life without the possibility of parole. ‘I’m going to send him away for as long as I can,’ Judge Geeker said. Mr. Sullivan is now 33 and his lawyers have asked the United States Supreme Court to consider the question of whether the eighth amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment extends to someone who was barely a teenager to die in prison for a crime that did not involve a killing. People can argue about whether the punishment in Mr. Sullivan’s case is cruel. There is no question that it is unusual. According to court papers and a report from the Equal Justice Initiative, which now represents Mr. Sullivan, there are only eight people in the world who are serving sentences of life without parole for crimes committed when they were 13. All are in the United States. And there are only two people in that group whose crimes did not involve killing. Both are in Florida, and both are black. Joe Sullivan is one; Ian Manual, who is in for a 1999 robbery and attempted murder, is the other…..” (Colb, 2009).

An almost similar case to this was observed in 1980: The case, Rummel v. Estelle the court upheld a life sentence in a recidivist statute for a defendant convicted of three nonviolent property crimes (netting less than $300 total) (Pierson, 2000). Pierson (2000) states that the recidivist wrote a bad check and the court decided to strike out a life-without-parole sentence, giving some little hope that the Eighth Amendment could become a vehicle for invalidating long sentences. But in 1991, in another case of Harmelin v, Michigan, the court decided to uphold a mandatory sentence of life without parole for the possession of over 650 grams of cocaine, even as three Justices in the majority agreed with the dissent there are some sentences that may be so long in relation to the seriousness of a crime that they would violate the Eighth Amendment (Gray & Fook, 2004). The last illustration is in Ewing v. California, the Court upheld the California “three strikes” law under which the petitioner was sentenced to 25-years-to-life for stealing three golf clubs worth $399 each (Gray, 2006).

Political perspective

In the a study to investigate the role of political institutions in the policy-making ideas and implementation in the United States, Daniel Beland and Francois Vergniolle de Chantal analyzes the historical and sociological issues; underlining their criticism on the historical failure of the attempts that would have seen a significant decentralization of the US welfare state (Guzetta, 1996). It subsequently shows that the critique of the centralization that is deeply rooted in the United States ideological repertoire only has a political relevance when conservatives have a budgetary rationale justifying it (Guzetta, 1996). Elliot & Mayadas (1996) state that “When elected office holders openly discuss the conservative social issues like personal responsibility and family values; they tend to relate to moral centralization”.

This problem is not confined to the United State alone. Britain for example enacted reforms on social rights, which according to many social scholars like Peter Dwyer, has gradually diluted the social rights of the British citizens (Elliot & Mayadas, 2000). Critically looking at the policy change, Dwyer illustrates how the principle of conditionality has been applied in a wide variety of policy areas including housing, income security, education, and health and further critique that “’inactive’ welfare recipients have become expedient ‘scapegoats’ used by British policy-makers to shield themselves against the blame that cutbacks traditionally generates” (Elliot, 1993)

Social perspective

According to the two cases, it is unique in that both of the two cases involved the teenage from the black community in America, i.e. the two offenders were both black teenagers, with recent data indicating that the 84% of the total number of offenders are Blacks (Colb, 2009). Another peculiar thing is that the two cases are all in Florida, who are said to have 19 times higher rate of juvenile offenders to life without parole for non-homicide offenses (Newsire, 2009).

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Why is the scenario peculiar to this minority group? In his analysis of the Special Population- Root of Diversity and Tension, Midgley (1997) first defines special populations as select cluster of individuals, families who were designated by a majority of members in society or community to become the focus of stigmatization, prejudice, and discrimination. To explain his theory on the root cause of this peculiarity, Midgley (1997) seems to blame the society for what he terms “social alienation” by elaborating that reasons such as skin color, ancestry, behaviors, or socially defined labels are unique and that this uniqueness distinguishes them from the majority groups. However problems come in when the majority try to impose social norms, values, and expectations to the minority, subsequently treating them as subordinates, if not less humans leading to a psychologically set rebellion against the system (Healy, 2001). This consequently leads to a scenario where all the subsequent cultural entries are subjugated and modified, as seen in the American society, whose multicultural formation is driven by economics (Midgley, 1997; Healy, 2001). Other than economic disparities, the alienation is powerfully visible in educational achievement disparities (Healy, 2001).

Social Welfare Theoretical Perspectives

This is referred to as models in which people can view and make assumptions about the society by looking at the various information about a societal structure by concentrating on what we observe and experience in the around us (Pine & Drachman, 2005). According to Rowe & Dulka (2006) no particular perspective is best in all spheres but the use depends on the question at stake. For example, if in any case one is analyzing the bureaucratic organization, he or she may resort to use a perspective that is concerned with social order, while a social inequality analysis would require a conflict perspective for proper and appropriate analysis(Pine & Drachman, 2005; Rowe & Dulka, 2006). In this paper, I have resorted to The Functionalist Perspective or Functionalism as some would refer to it, and the Conflict Perspective.

The Functionalist Perspective or Functionalism

Functionalism is traced back to early sociologists like Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim whose works indicate that the problem of maintaining the social order is one of the most critical problems in the society understanding (Rauch, 1976). According to their perspective, functionalists believe that each part of the society depend on one another and will contribute to the function of the society in general. That is, the state or the government will be responsible for education provision for children in all families belonging to this society, while the family will be in charge of paying taxes that the state of the government relies on to provide such services as education and keep its structures running (Rauch, 1976; Rowe & Dulka, 2006; Midgley, 1997). This is to say that the family unit is dependent on the schools whose running is under the state to help students grow up with good education that would eventually provide them with good jobs to run their own families and contribute more to the state through taxes (Midgley,1997). This is expected to produce order, stability as well as productivity, but if one part fails, then other parts of the society will be required to adapt to the process of recapturing the new order to fit the present situation in terms of restoring stability, and productivity (Rowe & Dulka, 2006). For instance, during this economic meltdown, there is high rates of inflation and unemployment, that has led to social programs being trimmed i.e. schools reducing the number of programs they offer, and families are forced to reduce on their spending, consequently leading to a new social order, stability and productivity (Rowe & Dulka, 2006; Midgley, 1997).

Functionalists always believe that it is the social consensus that holds together the society, where members of the society agree on a particular issue and work together to the society’s aspirations. This concept can be captured in Emile Durkheim’s suggested forms namely:

  1. Mecahnical solidarity; a form that arises when the people of a particular society maintains similar values and believes, and more importantly engage in more similar work. It is linked to the traditional societies that are less complex in terms of activities carried out by the majority. Example of such is the society that has its only economic activity as herding cattle or pastoralist, and
  2. The organic solidarity; a form of social cohesion arising from the interdependency of people of the society, even though they hold to varied values and beliefs, with varied types of work. It is commonly found in the industrialized nations with complex systems e.g. in the modern cities of the world today (Estes, 1995).

It is however apparent that functionalism ignores some of the negative functions of the society such events like divorce as just as critics claim, it is evident that functionalists prefer the status quo and complacency among the society members (Elliot, 1993). Even when a social change may be beneficial to the society, functionalists do not encourage people to take an active role in changing their social environment and instead notes that an active social change is uncalled for and largely undesirable because the “various parts of society will compensate naturally for any problems that may arise” (Edward & Hopps,1995; Estes, 1995). This may be due to the biological nature of the view of functionalists, who have particular built-in assumptions invoking their beliefs of either superiority or inferiority (Estes, 1995). But is the society really biological? From the way society embrace change, it is prudent to offer an assumption that society itself is social due to its ability to tolerate change.

In case this theory applied in the two cases highlighted at the beginning of this paper, proponents would argue that if the adolescent’s mental orientation is functionally “incapacitated” to notice any important senses as compared to adult brain ability, then the Eighth Amendment should ban all forms of punishments committed by the juveniles and not only the non-homicide offenses (Newsire, 2009). This may be justified by Professor Sherry Colb’s statements, as a professor of Law and Charles Hughes Scholar at Cornel Law School she may be interpreted as a proponent of juvenile life without parole sentence for non-homicide when she says: “to the extent that execution is meant to serve the function of incapacitating irredeemably violent people forever, the availability of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole provides a roughly equivalent substitute for that. Without this substitute, the inability to execute youthful offenders – in at least some cases – might appear far more threatening” (Colb, 2009).

The Conflict Perspective

The conflict perspective may be attributed to Karl Marx’s works of struggle of social class (Estes, 1995). The conflict perspective largely looks at the changing nature of the society though a series of conflicts and negativities and contrary to the functionalists, who will defend the status quo and do anything to prevent any eminent social change, Conflict theorist are ready to challenge the status quo, advocate for social change and are ready to support up to revolution since they belief that the rich and powerful in the society insist on a particular social order for their own benefits rather than the benefit of the majority poor or society as a whole Thomson & Smolak, 1999).

In 1940s and 1950s, many American sociologists ignored conflict perspective and instead favored the more conservative functionalism, but the tumultuous 1960s saw them venture much interest in conflict theory (Violato & Holden, 1987). This prompted them to expand on Marx’s idea which stated that the key conflict in society was strictly economic and not social in nature, thereby perpetuating the social gap in the society (Violato & Holden, 1987; Rauch, 1976). Presently, conflict perspective theorists will observe social conflict between any groups where any form of conflict may be found such as racial, moral, gender, religious, political, economic, etc. they say that unequal groups will always find conflicting values and agendas, making them start competing against one another, a phenomenon seen between groups that eventually change the nature of the society in time after time (Pine & Drachman, 2005). Why does this happen? Pine & Drachman (2005) explains that while the conflict theorists will recognize the existence of social structure, they believe that structure should exist solely to benefit the whole system, a case that is normally not supported by the present structures or institutions of the society that are only meant to serve the interest of the rich and powerful. They therefore normally pause questions like, “who benefits under this arrangement?”(Rauch, 1976). Critics therefore observe that conflict theorists will always criticize the idea of cooperation and consensus between the different social classes as just a manufactured idea to justify the rich and powerful part of the society’s influence. This means that the rest of the “underprivileged” society members are coerced into compliance and conformity through direct and indirect exercise of power (Violato & Holden, 1987). This argument if applied to the two cases highlighted earlier, one would easily notice why the proponents of this perspective would have critical views on all the options, given the demographic and racial inclination of the cases.

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Sullivan v. Graham case present the most present and the most important and strong arguments by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. This argument is based on the brain development, where they argue that the brains of adolescents not only have different configuration as that of adults but is also less developed, leading to the belief that adolescents may have more pressing times in terms of controlling their emotional boil-up (Newsire, 2009).. Furthermore the adolescents are seen as being more vulnerable with constant temptation of risk-talking behaviors, in a desire to get approval from his or her peers as a sign of reward, as well as other potential triggers of anti-social conduct (Midgley, 1997). This therefore leads to an argument that these adolescents who commit violent crimes are in general terms not as culpable i.e. they can never restrain themselves when exposed under certain circumstances as compared to adults who are involved with serious criminal offenses. Therefore, they are likely to redeem themselves and finally become better members of the society, thus the need not to give them life sentence. However, there is a critical problem that may result into this argument.

It is observable that conflict perspective is overly a negative view of societal structure and does not give credit to any social status of the society, a belief that is making many scholars, especially the ones who favor the functionalism, to fault its existence and use (Midgley, 1997). It is the theory that looks at humanitarian efforts, altruism, democracy, civil rights, and any other positive aspects of society as purely a capitalistic designs aiming to control the masses, and does not have any interest in the societal order at all (Guzetta, 1996; Estes, 1995 ).

Policy Case Analysis

In 1998, Professor Colb decided to interview a recidivist child molester for sexually violent predators. The convict argued that once somebody has been in confinement for more than ten years, the person is unlikely to fit back to the society and become successful since by after a decade, “life shall have passed by” the person (Colb, 2009). Critically looking at it, in case the statement is true, then the conflict theorists would have a concrete arguments against the long sentences of such offenders, at least if this group is to join the rest of the world for their own benefits. Functionalists would want to form social cohesion with this group once they are released due to their belief in interdependency of people of the society, even if they hold different views as concerns the societal values and beliefs (Colb, 2009). However, a critical question would arise, what of the contentious juvenile life without parole sentence?

If a juvenile spends the rest of his or her life in jail, probably we would never need to worry much about “their coming back” to the society, but the question again arises; what is the purpose of that sentence? (Colb, 2009; Gray, 2006). Gray (2006) argues that such cases are “plainly retributive”- a person who has been proved guilty of committing such offense would be required to suffer behind the bars for the rest of his or her life. However, is this enough reason to remove the person permanently from the society?

In this context, the answer would depend on what Social Welfare Theoretical Perspective one argues. For a functionalist, the two juveniles would better spend the rest of their lives behind the bars because they cannot “change”. According to the functionalists perspective, a person cannot change since the act of committing such offences are imbedded into their biological system and as Gray (2006) puts it, if he is the rapist today he “remains the rapist for the rest of his life” therefore releasing such a person back to the society would mean distorting the societal order. A functionalist would say that violent criminal offender would need incapacitation, i.e. a prison should not only serve as a punishment option and rehabilitation center for offenders as Conflict theorist would argue, but should be used to prevent such offenders from harming others, since such a person with violent history can never be trusted with any form of freedom back in the society (Edward & Hopps, 1995). Furthermore, such crimes can be predicted and a possibility of future antisocial conduct is predicted using past behavior as an indicator (Gray, 2006; Edward & Hopps, 1995).

However, this argument can be disputed since it ignores a very fundamental fact that people do change with time, as empirical research finding that have revealed that an individual who commits crime at the age of 25 is likely to slow down or stop by the time he or she reaches 40 (Colb, 2009). They could only pose a threat to the society at later years if he or she belonged to organized crime group and that “one might even note that with the decline in testosterone over the male lifespan, the odds that such a man will behave violently diminish substantially, even when he begins in every bad place (Elliot & Mayadas, 1996). To rest sentences of life imprisonment on an incapacitation theory is therefore, in most case, to ignore the realities of the human life cycle” (Gray, 2006). One would therefore substantially post a successful argument against functionalists by the use of biological facts to shoot down the life imprisonment for the juveniles.

However, if we believe change is eminent, that is, the two convict can change and probably become more reflective on their conducts no matter how long they spend behind the bars, as Conflict theorists believe, then one would reason that the two cases be terminated with much ease. Probably a conflict theorist would argue that continual confinement would deny the convicts a chance to redeem their lives, and develop into a more responsible and productive person. Again, conflict theorist would reason on the social welfare perspective of the society as a whole, especially the welfare of the family members and specific communities who are likely to go through suffering for the loss of one of their own, leading to their reduced productivity. This kind of suffering may be seen as unjustified since these relatives and community did not commit the crime to warrant such kind of torture, for a juvenile is still attached to their families under all circumstances (Colb, 2009). Gray (2006) puts it vividly that “an individual is not an island, and it is rarely possible to take one person out of commission without generating spillover effects on innocent others”

Social Welfare Policy Efficacy

The struggle between functionalists and conflict theorists has marred the effectiveness of the social welfare policy implementations. This is largely due to the socio-economic and political stand the policy has taken. Conflict theorists are seen as the optimistic welfare lobby groups whose desire is to alleviate the ultimate cause of juvenile crime, while the functionalists are seen as pessimistic justice lobby groups whose main intention is just to manage delinquents more effectively by emphasizing and reasserting the link between crime and punishment, no matter the age factor (Elliot & Mayadas, 1996; Estes, 1995; Gray, 2006).

The ultimate consequences of the conflict between these two opposing approaches to juvenile crime for the juvenile justice system is seen as the root cause of the deadlock, and some scholars argue that this conflict may be with us to stay. The conflict theorists comprised of the social welfare professionals and the penal reformers are striving to create alternatives to imprisonment for children and young people especially the juvenile life without parole sentence for non-homicide (Gray, 2006). They emphasize that the retribution is actually a social policy and today’s professional practice has arisen from the transformation of an economic crisis last century into a moral crusade in this century (Pine & Drachman, 2005). In an actual sense, this ideological shift has set the present paradigm for criminological research, the boundaries of public policy as well as the limits of professional practice (Gray, 2006; Pine & Drachman, 2005).

However, a critical review of the international social welfare works has revealed that there exist a limited discussion and no consensus that relates to the practice models or theoretical framework, other than the economic perspective that has dominated the scene for quite a long time now (Pine & Drachman, 2005). So far, the theoretical approaches like the once discussed in this paper are largely at their beginning stage formulation. For example, the argument of the intent to commit crime fronted by anti-life sentence for the non-homicide offenders has some fundamental weaknesses that need to be looked at critically. The weakness of the intent to commit crime argument can be noted when one tries to differentiate homicide and non-homicide for the juveniles. In this context, the distinctions become immaterial when the problem with passing life imprisonment to juveniles is their diminished capacity, since “a homicide adolescent is in no more able to control his impulses than a raping adolescent is to control his. But the difference between the two offences will have more to do with surrounding circumstances and opportunities than with the capacity, thus culpability (Rowe & Dulka, 2006; Thomson & Smolak, 1999; U.S. D.H.H.S, 1994).

The idea of selecting specific offenses to help limit the argument may not be of much help since the advocates will immediately notice the loopholes if the Eighth Amendment is used to decide the case, and almost immediately start poking holes into the Amendments, picking cases of all the juvenile offenders to be released.

In another dimension, the argument of inadequate capacity of the adolescent to control their behavior may not hold much water if the sentence fall short of life imprisonment (Colb, 2009). Why? Under the Eighth Amendment, it would be disproportionately unconstitutional and socially harsh to the offended (Colb, 2009). For instance an adolescent may be in a capacity to commit crime than his peers, say to the level of adults. If such adult is sent to life imprisonment and the adolescent is punished less than that level, the problem may arise as people would view that as disproportionately unconstitutional.

Again, the juvenile capacity fails to capture what the legal fraternity knows about adult offenders (Colb, 2009). In some social research, it has been noted that even though adolescents is a corollary of criminal acts, adults who commit crime or get involved in other anti-social acts were found to have much common traits with the adolescents (Elliot & Mayadas, 1996). The same study also revealed that 25% of adults prison inmates suffer from mental chronic illness thus lacked the capacity to self-control just like the presumed adolescents, yet they go ahead to receive long sentences up to life imprisonment (Elliot, & Mayadas, 1996). It is thus easy for one to argue that such adults, presented to a more thorough scientific investigation, may find ground to argue their case, since the case of incapability may not be unique to the adolescence criminals (Gray, 2006; Elliot, & Mayadas, 1996).

However, it is noted that the prevailing incapacity approach has been largely focused on cognition i.e. the ability to distinguish between right and wrong (Elliot, & Mayadas, 1996). This may be attributed to the passage of Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984, since it may be difficult to reliably distinguish between one who could not be in a position to control himself or herself as an individual and one who is capable of doing that (Estes, 995; Gray, 2006).

This therefore calls for much intensive debate as well as interactions so as to help develop a fully fledged theoretical and evidence-based knowledge that would take both national and international social work into the next stage.

The Role of Policy Evaluation

The social development approach therefore offers some specific framework that would encompass the following: empowerment, institution building, prevention and development, sustainability and ecological issues, investment in human and social capital, human rights and social justice, diversity, and many more (Guzetta, 1996).

In order to build an effective body of knowledge for the policy building and implementation Guzetta (1996) proposes the following steps to be followed to evaluate the extent of the policy effectiveness, that will thus act as the benchmark role of policy evaluation:

  • Agreement on common values, skills, practices and models. The dissenting voices and the conflicting issues need to be understood and then incorporated for its success in both establishment and implementation.
  • Application of the guiding perspective, expanded to include: the regional and global construction of social issues, human right issues, professional ethics and values, the centrality of, respect for, and knowledge of, human diversity and indigenous approaches, the role of economics in both personal regional and local level, the value of social and economic justice that include issues like social restoration, power and politics, the need to build a verifiable and testable knowledge based on a postmodern intellectual climate, including both quantitative and qualitative to international social work research, approaches that can facilitate the individuals, communities and people empowerment, and finally the need to approach the issues with many approaches to advance thinking and practice
  • The development of the practice-based models to guide the practice at a more detailed and tested level (Guzetta, 1996).


Even though social reform activists advocate against the life imprisonment due to the fact that the young offenders are considered children, contemporary conservative reformers argue that youths or adolescents who goes ahead to commit serious offenses should just be punished just like adults (Gray, 2006). This kind of modern reform was triggered by the increased violent youth crimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Estes, 1995). Their explicit goal is to ensure that the public remain safe, with little regard to the welfare of the young offenders. The historical depiction of delinquents as wayward children has been largely replaced by modern archetype of the savvy young criminal whom is a serious threat to the society (Estes, 1995). It is under this perspective that the modern advocates of tough policies would deny any psychological distinction between youths and adults that are relevant to criminal responsibility (Elliot & Mayadas, 1996).

The question that should be asked is how the criminal law should take the immaturity into account when deciding the kind of punishment that the young offenders get. In recent years, the role of immaturity has been of much contention as juveniles are being tried offered life imprisonment (Estes, 1995). It is therefore empirical for more research on theories on how best to determine criminal responsibility among the young criminal offenders especially the non-homicide juveniles.

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Newsire, P.R. (2009). Juvenile law center calls on U.S. Supreme Court to eliminate juvenile life without parole for non-homicide cases. Web.

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