In 2005, in Roper v. Simmons, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to impose capital punishment for a crime that an individual committed while that person was under 18 years old. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for juveniles is unconstitutional. These decisions, and others, reflect a trend in which the Court has indicated that children, because of their lack of maturity, should be treated differently from adults. Last week, that trend paused, or perhaps, stopped.
In Jones v. Mississippi, decided April 22, 2021, the Court held that a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for a 15-year-old juvenile who was convicted of murder does not violate the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause. More specifically, in its 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that a minor does not have to be deemed incapable of rehabilitation to receive a sentence of life without parole. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority, opined that previous decisions only required a judge to consider “an offender’s youth and attendant characteristics” before imposing a sentence of life without parole.