Disparity in Sentencing of Kids
Fort Valley State
How can it be that juvenile offenders face such a disparity in sentencing state by state when the underlying philosophy and dual purpose in dealing with juveniles are the same-to give children a second chance, and to protect society? This essay sets out to list the most egregious disparities, to provide insight into juveniles who have been sentenced to life in prison, and to offer up suggestions.
Dramatic Disparities in Sentencing Juveniles.
“Procedure varies dramatically from state to state, with nuances such as age, prior record, and seriousness of the offense factored in," says XXXXX XXXXX, who leads the juvenile-justice advisory committee of the National District Attorneys Association. It is unfair and unconscionable for such gross disparity of punishments for the same crimes committed by youths. The Supreme Court has held that juveniles have the right to Due Process. For there to be such a wide disparity in sentencing is a clear violation of a youth's right to have the law applied equally to each youth.
Massachusetts, for example, tries fewer than 100 juveniles as adults each year - compared with 5,000 a year in Florida. An 11-year-old is charged with stabbing a boy to death in Massachusetts and, if convicted, could serve a total of seven years in a juvenile jail; whereas a 12-year-old is convicted of beating a girl to death in Florida and faces life without parole in an adult prison. There are thousands more examples out there.
The disparity tells us that youth are not worth the special attention necessarily applicable to them given their age and experience. Their brains are not even fully developed, and as with an incompetent defendant, cannot be held to the same standard as an adult. States have to make a better effort at providing guidelines for sentencing that are similar, or at least minutely consistent with one another without giving up each state's right to their sovereignty in...