People in Utah may have seen an interesting news article about the problem in the legal systems of many states that may be illegally sentencing certain juvenile offenders. In 2012, the United States Supreme Court made it illegal to mandate life sentences without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders, but still at least 15 states have yet to change their laws in accordance with the Supreme Court’s opinion.
In Utah, juveniles convicted of even the most serious crimes are eligible for a parole review after 25 years, but it is even worse in some other states. It is also distressing to note that the United States is the only country in the world that allows children to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
No matter the severity of the crime, the judicial system must be cognizant of the age of the child when they commit a crime or infraction. It doesn’t make sense to have penalties with such long-term consequences when the offender is a young and impressionable youth who was not even fully mentally developed at the time they committed the crime. Many juvenile crimes are mere mistakes of judgment, and do not mean that the juvenile is destined for a life of criminal activity.
Fortunately, the laws of the state of Utah allow children convicted of certain juvenile crimes the opportunity to straighten themselves out and put their transgressions behind them. Juveniles who commit minor infractions, including drug and alcohol charges, can have their penalties substantially reduced, and their criminal records potentially expunged, by entering into diversion programs or getting treatment for their substance abuse issues. Juveniles and their parents should always make sure they understand their legal options when facing criminal charges.
Source: Mintpress News, “Many Juveniles Still Illegally Sentenced to Life Without Parole,” Nadia Prupis, June 28, 2014