Criminal Justice Juveniles Research Paper

Pages: 10 (3510 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice


(Johnson and Tabri, Page 2 -- 3)

People think that juveniles with life sentences would improve their health and their character if the possibility of parole existed to be something for them to work towards while imprisoned. LWOP is another form of death. Others who argue against LWOP for juvenile declare that LWOP diminishes the health of juveniles in many ways, many of which, lead to premature death.

According to Monahon (2009), juveniles are vulnerable because of their size, lack of experience in the system, and lack of peer support groups. Compared to youth in juvenile facilities, juveniles incarcerated in adult prisons are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, and almost twice as likely to be attacked with a weapon by inmates or beaten by staff (Redding, 2010). In order to protect themselves from physical violence, including rape, many youth engage in fights in prison…With little hope of release, juveniles sentenced to LWOP are at risk of self-harm and suicide (Human Rights Watch, 2008). Juveniles in adult facilities are eight times more likely to commit suicide than youth in juvenile facilities (Redding, 2010). (Spooner, Page 75)

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The vulnerability for juveniles as LWOP again, comes from their lack of development. Life in prison has been compared to surviving in a vicious jungle. Anything that can be perceived as a weakness will be preyed upon and exploited as a weakness. Juveniles are younger, smaller, and less experienced in adult life as well as adult prison. Their lack of development physically and psychologically makes them high-risk targets within the general populations when sentenced as an adult (LWOP) and especially when sentenced with other adults. Spending so much of their lifetimes in prison increases the likelihood of premature death, even if they survive the physical and sexual assaults. Juvenile offenders that grow into adults behind bars are much more likely to die earlier than their non-imprisoned counterparts. Prison is literally killing these juveniles.

TOPIC: Research Paper on Criminal Justice Juveniles Who Are Assignment

Offenders sentenced to death by incarceration, like prisoners condemned to death by execution, experience a final and irrevocable sentence that culminates in deaths that are untimely and undignified. Long-term prisoners, and especially those serving terms of life without parole, can be expected to experience poor health relative to their cohorts in the free world. This problem escalates dramatically after they reach the age of fifty, leading to shortened life expectancies and early deaths. Most of these prisoners die "alone, unmourned, a disgrace in the person's own eyes as well as in the eyes of society." (Johnson and Tabri, Page 7)

Thus, if juveniles survive the torment of the other prisoners, they are likely to survive just to end up dying by their own hands much earlier than the average life expectancy. The opposition to LWOP for juveniles use these examples and more to essentially state that LWOP is basically a death sentence and if it is not all right to put a juvenile to death my more direct means, why is all right to put them to death by indirect means such as LWOP?

The LWOP juveniles grow to only know prison, never have the chance to make healthy connections and choices, and die as alone as they feel. This is a way that opposers of LWOP for juveniles support the argument that LWOP is an exercise of cruelty and a violation of human rights.

In this context, the sentence is indeed cruel. These issues have become so well-understood at the international level that a state's execution of this sentence raises the possibility that it not only violates juvenile justice standards but also contravenes international norms established by the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Globally, the consensus against imposing LWOP sentences on children is virtually universal. Based on the authors' research, there is only one country in the world today that continues to sentence child offenders to LWOP terms: the United States. (de la Vega and Leighton, Page 985)

If juveniles do not get exposure to the outside world, they will never recover or improve. They will likely die at the hands of other prisoners or from their own. Adults at least had their chance to develop and make choices in a more open and diverse environment other than prison. Juvenile LWOP really is effectively another way to sentence a juvenile to death; the death happens from without as well as from within.

There are other cons to the use of LWOP and they are related. One con of the use of LWOP for juveniles is that it is primarily used on one country only: the United States of America.

Very few countries have historically used life sentences for juvenile offenders…a single country is now responsible for 100% of all child offenders serving this sentence: the United States. Most governments have either never allowed, expressly prohibited, or will not practice such sentencing on child offenders because it violates the principles of child development and protection established through national standards and international human rights law. There are now at least 135 countries that have expressly rejected the sentence via their domestic legal commitments, and 185 countries that have done so in the U.N. General Assembly. (de la Vega and Leighton, Page 989)

Another con of LWOP use, especially with respect to the U.S.A., is that there are the same kinds of biases and problems that exist in the adult justice system as the juvenile justice system.

The data also suggests that there may be gender and racial biases in juvenile LWOP sentencing. Males comprise the majority of the juvenile LWOP population…The evidence also shows that Black youth are disproportionately sentenced to LWOP when compared to White youth. Black youth are sentenced to LWOP at a rate of ten times that of white youth (Human Rights Watch, 2008). (Spooner, Page 75)

It is a highly flawed and biased system used in a country based and heavily predicated on treatment based upon bias that continues to be used despite the abundant and proven statistics that not only is crime going down significantly, but also juvenile crime is going down substantially.

From 1962 to 1981, an average of two juvenile offenders received LWOP sentences each year (Human Rights Watch, 2008). Beginning in 1982, annual increases were reported, peaking at 152 youth in 1996 (Human Rights Watch, 2008). Although crime rates have declined since 1994, it is estimated that the rate at which states sentence youth to LWOP is three times higher than it was in 1992 (Hechinger, 2011). Human Rights Watch (2010) reports that 2,574 individuals are currently serving LWOP for crimes they committed when they were under the age of eighteen. Today, the United States is the only country in the world that actively sentences juveniles to LWOP (Human Rights Watch, 2008). (Spooner, Page 74)

LWOP continues to be used in a biased manner in an unjust manner as a deterrent that has continuously proved ineffective. These are all cons and reasons why the use of LWOP should cease, and at the very least be meticulously reevaluated.

The policies and review process of juvenile LWOPs do not accurately reflect the public perceptions of juveniles and juvenile offenders. There are Americans, despite the staggering statistics, who believe in juveniles' ability to improve and leave a life of crime behind. Yet the policies regarding juvenile LWOP seemed fixed and that is yet another con of the LWOP practice.

Americans may well ask why so many United States continue to violate international human rights law as it is practiced by virtually every other country in the world where children also commit terrible crimes on occasion. Why does the United States continue to impose a sentence that is not humane, appropriate, or a deterrent to crime, and that fails America's children and adults? Surveys demonstrate that Americans believe in the redemption and rehabilitation of children and do not believe that incarcerating youth in adult facilities teaches them a lesson or deters crime. The country's juvenile justice laws and policies should better reflect this understanding. (de la Vega and Leighton, Page 987)

This is yet another reason why the use of LWOP in the U.S.A. must be reevaluated. No other countries use it to the extent, with the frequency, or with the prejudice it is used with in the U.S.A. Moreover, it is a policy that is not supported by the majority of the American people, just as America has waged war in places and with peoples with which the American public disagreed vehemently.

There are few pros to LWOP juveniles. In the most serious cases, LWOP juveniles that commit the worst crimes and show no or little remorse and chance of rehabilitation serve as very public examples to other juveniles who are considering, have committed, or even are already serving time at juvenile facilities for their crimes. Sentencing a few juveniles to LWOP shows very starkly that there will be some lines that will be drawn and adhered to. The few justifiable… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Criminal Justice Juveniles.  (2012, August 22).  Retrieved October 26, 2021, from

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"Criminal Justice Juveniles."  22 August 2012.  Web.  26 October 2021. <>.

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"Criminal Justice Juveniles."  August 22, 2012.  Accessed October 26, 2021.