The Justice Department is studying Monday’s Supreme Court ruling barring life sentences for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes, possibly with an eye toward improving rehabilitation programs for juveniles in prison.

“We have this decision very much on our radar screen,” Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson told an American Bar Association public defender conference in Knoxville Thursday night. Robinson, who heads the office of justice programs, was asked about Graham v. Florida, in which the high court said life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles for crimes short of murder are unconstitutional. The questioner asked if the ruling might result in more funding for programs for juveniles in prison. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion, said such a lengthy sentence “forswears altogether the rehabilitative ideal,” and that juveniles with such a sentence are often denied access to vocational or rehabilitative programs because they have no prospect of returning to society.

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