The decisions of the US Supreme Court in Roper v. Simons (2005) and Graham v. Florida (2010) are major landmarks in how the juvenile justice system is exercised in the US under the Eighth amendment. On March 1, 2005, the Supreme Court reviewed the death penalty’s constitutionality for juvenile offenders. The court reasoned that the death penalty was reserved for serious crimes committed by people with less culpability and decided that juvenile offenders do not fall in the worst offender category. Supported by expert psychologists, the court observed that children lack a mature understanding of humanity, are more susceptible to negative influence, and their characters are not well-formed hence should be relieved from sentencing as the worst offenders (Newey, 2019). Unlike adult offenders, serious crimes committed by children are retrievable, resulting in the court barring the death penalty for children. The Roper v. Simon decision amended the misguided handling of heinous crimes for children to prevent cruel punishment banned by the Eighth Amendment.
From a moral standpoint, the US Supreme Court prohibited life without parole sentences on children who commit non-homicide crimes in Graham v. Florida decision. Similar to Roper v. Simons, the decision in Graham v. Florida is based on the argument that children’s character, consciousness, understanding, and intentions are underdeveloped compared to adults. None of the goals of penal sanctions, including deterrence, retribution, incapacitation, and rehabilitation, validated the sentencing of children liable for non-homicide crimes without parole (Finholt et al., 2020). Furthermore, a life sentence without parole inadequately denies the children offenders’ chance to demonstrate rehabilitation, growth, and maturity. Juveniles, unlike adults, have higher prospects for reform and diminished moral culpability. Therefore, the Supreme Court established sentencing children without parole unconstitutional to observe the eighth amendment.
Finholt, B., Garrett, B. L., Modjadidi, K., & Renberg, K. M. (2020). Juvenile life without parole in North Carolina. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 110, 141. Web.
Newey, E. (2019). More than a chronological fact: Roper v. Simmons as an argument for moving away from zero-tolerance discipline and toward restorative justice. Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, 2(5) 227. Web.