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Juvenile Sentencing

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Sentencing and punishment for juvenile crime has been a challenging issue. Cases have even gone to the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of certain sentences for juvenile offenders. In early 2010, the Supreme Court decided a couple of major cases limiting the punishment juveniles can receive for their offenses. In Roper v. Simmons, the Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to sentence someone to the death penalty for crimes they commit before they are 18. This means no juvenile can ever be sentenced to the death penalty. The Supreme Court further limited juvenile sentencing in Graham v. Florida, ruling that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison without parole for nonhomicide crimes. In both of these cases, the court found that the death penalty or life in prison without parole for nonhomicide crimes constitute cruel and unusual punishment when it comes to juvenile offenders. The court reasoned that juveniles have lesser moral culpability for crimes than adults do and so they are therefore less deserving of the most serious forms of punishment.

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