Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why Life Without Parole For Juveniles Makes Sense

No, it doesn't make sense to me. But it makes sense that they remain in effect based on the fabric of our society, based on "what the public wants," says the government.

Yesterday, as every lawyer in the world knows, the United States Supreme Court heard argument on the issue of whether life sentences without parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses is a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.

There is no question but that we have lost any desire to reform children that have gone astray. Trying juveniles as adults, once a rarity, is now the norm. Seventeen year olds are frequently charged as adults because, well, they're 17.

We have no issue as a society locking up people and "throwing away the key. This is whether they are 35, 50, or 14.

The State of Florida argued that individual states should have the right to determine how to prosecute children. Florida has a big stake in this case, with 77 of the 100 juveniles imprisoned for life on non-homicide cases proudly calling the Sunshine State home.

Lock 'em up. Forever.

It's how we are, and who we are today. Politicians run on "tough on crime" agendas, convincing the public that they will "keep them safe." Turn a misdemeanor into a felony, throw in a minimum mandatory penalty, have the tool to be able to lock up a kid for life, and we'll all feel safer. Go against the agenda, and you're just cozying up with criminals and running the risk of abandoning everyones perceived top priority of "public safety."

Life without parole sentences for juveniles make sense because they keep politicians in office, and keep people believing they are safe(r).

Talk about putting money into education, helping kids on the "front end" rather than the "back end" when they are well on there way to prison, and you just "don't understand." The anger and hatred expressed by those who can't believe we as a country would even consider non-homicidal children in prison for the rest of their lives to be cruel and unusual, is deafening.

Prosecutors want this hammer. The people, are told by their elected officials that they want this hammer.

That's why it all makes sense.

And that's why they'll stay in effect, subject to some level of discretion that is virtually meaningless.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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