Juvenile injustice: The high court should make its ruling that abolished mandatory life sentences for juveniles retroactive

January 2, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court justices moved the nation’s justice system forward in 2012 by ruling that mandatory life sentences for juveniles violated the Constitution’s 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. That decision, however, did not determine whether the prohibition on such sentences should apply retroactively to more than 2,000 juvenile lifers nationwide, including nearly 350 in Michigan.

The high court’s omission has created confusion around the country. It has enabled states such as Michigan to continue to enforce unjust and irrational laws.

Michigan’s juvenile lifer law defied science, public opinion, and common sense. Children don’t have the same legal rights and responsibilities as adults, because they lack the maturity and judgment to handle them. Nor should courts hold them equally culpable.

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