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Juvenile and Special Category Offenders’ Rights Essay

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Supreme Court Cases

Roper v. Simmons

In 2005, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional for a person aged below 18 years to receive a death sentence. The ruling overturned the 1989 Stanford v. Kentucky judgment that set the minimum age of an offender who can be given a death penalty at sixteen (Stout, 2005). Simmons committed a capital offense at the age of 17. The court sentenced him to death after turning 18. The court rejected Simmons’ attempt to seek post-conviction relief.

Later, Simmons filed a petition based on Atkins v. Virginia, 536, U.S. 304 ruling (Stout, 2005). He argued that the Constitution prohibited the execution of an offender who committed a crime as a minor. The Missouri Supreme Court stated that Simmons’ arguments were right and overturned the previous judgment. The court sentenced Simmons to life imprisonment devoid of qualification for release. The Supreme Court held that the public consensus prohibited the execution of offenders who committed crimes at a young age (Stout, 2005). The court also cited the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendments as adequate grounds to overturn the previous ruling.

Graham v. Florida

In the case of Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court ruled that it was a contravention of the Eighth Amendment to condemn an infantile to life imprisonment for non-homicidal offenses without the likelihood of parole. The Supreme Court judges argued that the state had an obligation to grant a juvenile a “meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation” (Arya, 2010, p. 121).

The court had sentenced Graham to life imprisonment devoid of the likelihood of release for armed robbery. Graham challenged the court’s ruling based on the provisions of the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. According to the Supreme Court judges, the clause prohibited life imprisonment with no possible parole of minor offenders for crimes not associated with homicide (Arya, 2010).

Miller v. Alabama

In 2012, the Supreme Court declared it unlawful to condemn a criminal who was below 18 years at the time of the felony to mandatory life imprisonment without parole. The Supreme Court judges claimed that attorneys must consider the age of the delinquent before making their final judgment (Savage, 2012). Some juveniles could commit crime due to their naivety. The judges declared that a court should factor in the mitigating characteristics of a juvenile before making a ruling.

Statutory Exclusion

Statutory exclusion refers to a situation where the state laws rule out particular violent, serious, or repeat young offenders from juvenile court authority. Arya (2010) holds that offense, age, and prior court history criteria limit the statutory exclusion provisions. Mainly, statutory exclusion covers the most severe offenses (Arya, 2010). The primary issue associated with statutory exclusion is the determination of incorrigibility. It becomes difficult for judges to determine the permanently depraved youths. Eventually, the court ends up punishing some juveniles who could be rehabilitated. Public opinion is another issue that influences statutory exclusion (Arya, 2010). Public outrage compels the judicial system to classify some offenses under the statutory exclusion.

Restoration of Rights

The law dictates that the state restores the rights of a person after he/she completes a sentence. Some of the rights that require being restored include the civil liberties (Arya, 2010). Additionally, the state should restore the political rights like the right to vote after completion of a sentence. Nevertheless, some rights may be withheld. For instance, an individual may be deprived of the right to own a firearm if he/she previously used it to commit a crime (Arya, 2010).

The rights should be restored automatically if an individual was convicted of a single crime. However, if a person was sentenced for multiple crimes, he/she should apply for restoration of the rights. The court should be lenient with a person convicted of a single crime. However, it should vet a person sentenced for two or more crimes to ensure that he/she is fit to continue to enjoy the rights. Otherwise, such a person may take advantage and misuse the rights.

Impact of Morrissey v. Brewer on Parolees

Sullivan (1974) holds that the Morrissey v. Brewer case granted the parolees an opportunity to be heard in the determination of withdrawal of parole. Besides, the case gave the parolee a chance to know the grounds that the court used to revoke his/her probation. The case made it possible for the parolee to interrogate adverse witnesses.

Truth in Sentencing

The truth in the sentencing movement led to changes in the duration that an inmate can serve before qualifying for parole. Before the movement, inmates could get parole after serving a third of their sentences (Sullivan, 1974). Currently, inmates have to stay in prison for an extended period before they qualify for parole.

Changes in Parole System

Given a chance to make a change in the parole system, I would ensure that offenders serve for at least two-thirds of their sentences before they qualify for parole. It would help to ensure that criminals pay for their mistakes and reform. Currently, parole is automatic. All inmates have an opportunity for parole. I would change the system to make sure that prisoners do not automatically get parole. Prisoners sentenced to five years, and above would have to apply for parole. It would help to ensure that people who might pose a threat to the public do not get parole. The last reform that I would introduce is the categorization of inmates. Rapists and murderers would not be treated like other prisoners when it comes to probation. They would require vetting before they are granted paroles.

References

Arya, N. (2010). Using Graham v. Florida to challenge juvenile transfer laws. Louisiana Law Review, 71(1), 100-156.

Savage, D. (2012). Supreme Court rules mandatory juvenile life without parole cruel and unusual. Los Angeles Times, pp. 1A, 2A.

Stout, D. (2005). Supreme Court bars death penalty for juvenile killers. The New York Times, pp. B3, B4.

Sullivan, M. (1974). Implications of Morrissey v. Brewer for prison disciplinary hearings in Indiana. Indiana Law Journal, 49(2), 306-321.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Juvenile and Special Category Offenders' Rights." April 6, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/juvenile-and-special-category-offenders-rights/.

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