The Roberts Court’s Liberal Turn on Juvenile Justice

THE Supreme Court’s decision this week to ban mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for offenders younger than 18 is an emphatic rejection of the “get tough” juvenile justice policies of the 1980s and 1990s, which punished children as if they were adults. Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan’s clear statement not only recognized the political and biological principle that children are different from adults but at last also inscribed it into constitutional law. 

Treating children differently from adults may be a radical idea, but it’s also an old one, predating the American Revolution. The political philosopher John Locke argued that children’s lack of reasoning capacity, which disqualified them from participating in government, also made them less culpable for their criminal acts. By the turn of the 20th century, progressive child advocates embedded the principle that children are different from adults — and thus require individualized handling of their cases — into the foundation of the world’s first juvenile courts. 

This is an op-ed from the NYTimes.  Tom

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