Tuesday, November 8, 2011

High Court to Hear Case on Teens' Prison Sentences

One year after it ruled that youth under age 18 cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in non-homicide cases, the Supreme Court said on Monday it will hear two cases to decide whether it is also unconstitutional to sentence juvenile murderers to life-without-parole sentences. In their 2010 ruling, the court's majority considered testimony from psychiatric and other mental health experts that adolescents' still-developing brains may not provide them with the same decision-making capabilities as those of adults, and thus should not be subject to the same penalties as the most severe for which adults are eligible. The justices ruled that sentencing minors who haven't commited murder to life without parole violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In an amicus curiae brief APA and other organizations submitted in the 2010 case, they stressed that "juveniles...are less able to restrain their impulses and exercise self-control [and] less capable than adults of considering alternative courses of action and maturely weighing risks and rewards...."

To read more about APA's amicus brief and the Court's reasoning in the 2010 case, see Psychiatric News.

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