Supported arguments for providing youth a meaningful opportunity for release
• A de facto life sentence is one that exceeds a person’s life expectancy. i
• The average life expectancy for juveniles serving de facto life sentences in Oregon is 50.1 years old. ii
• Therefore, a de facto life sentence is one that exceeds 35 years for a 15-year-old juvenile offender.
• Juvenile life without the possibility of parole (JLWOP) sentences and juvenile de facto life (de facto JLWOP) sentences are functionally equivalent.
• Currently, there are 25 people serving de facto JLWOP in Oregon. iii
• Juveniles differ from adults biologically and psychologically, and are thereby, “constitutionally different…for purposes of sentence.” iv
• Juveniles are, “less able to exercise self-control, less capable of avoiding risky behaviors by considering alternative actions, and less attentive to the consequences of impulsive actions.” v
• Adolescent brains are still developing. Therefore, “juveniles are more capable of change than are adults, and their actions are less likely to be evidence of ‘irretrievably depraved character’ than are the actions of adults.” vi
• The goal of juvenile incarceration is to rehabilitate the offender:
– “The penalty (of life without parole) forswears altogether the rehabilitative ideal…. For juvenile offenders, who are most in need of and receptive to rehabilitation, the absence of rehabilitative opportunities or treatment makes the disproportionality of the sentence all the more evident.” vii
– “A State is not required to guarantee eventual freedom…but must impose a sentence that provides some meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” viii
• Both the Oregon Constitution and the United States Constitution protect against cruel and unusual punishment:
– Cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted, but all penalties shall be proportioned to the offense. – Oregon Constitution, Article 1; Section 16. ix
– Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. – U.S. Constitution, Eighth Amendment. x
• The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, ratified by 192 nations, prohibits the imposition of life without parole for offenses committed by juveniles:
– No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age. – Article 37, axi
• JLWOP and de facto JLWOP violate the following additional international treaties:
– International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
– United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice
– United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
– American Declaration of the Right and Duties of Man
– Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture xii
• Three recent Supreme Court Cases have recognized the difference between juveniles and adults with regards to imposition of sentencing:
– Roper v Simmons (2005): Abolished the death penalty for juvenile offenders. xiii
– Graham v Florida (2010): Banned states from imposing life without parole on juveniles who did not, “kill or intend to kill.” xiv
– Miller v Alabama (2012): Banned states from imposing mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders. xv
• JLWOP and de facto JLWOP violate the prohibition on sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole – or the constitutional requirements – established by Graham and Miller.
• While Graham and Miller do not require guaranteed release for juveniles sentenced to JLWOP or de facto JLWOP, they do require sentences that give offenders a, “meaningful opportunity to obtain release.” xvi
• Therefore, action ought to be taken to ensure that Oregon gives juvenile offenders a meaningful opportunity to obtain release; is fulfilling its legal obligations under the Oregon and the United States constitutions, and International treaties, including those agreed to by the United States; and acts in accordance with constitutional requirements established by Graham and Miller.
i Adams v. State, No. 1D11-3225, 2012 WL 3193932 (Fla. 1st DCA Aug. 8, 2012)
ii Oregon Department of Corrections
iii Oregon Department of Corrections
iv Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. __ (2012).
v See Brief for the American Psychological Association American Psychiatric Association, and National Association of Social Workers as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners at 3-4, Miller v. Alabama, Nos. 10-9646, 10-9647 (U.S. Jan. 17, 2012) available at WL 174239 [hereinafter Miller Brief in Support of Petitioners]
vi Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. __ (2012).
vii Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. __ (2012).
viii Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. __ (2012).
ix Oregon Constitution, Article 1; Section 16, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html
x U.S. Constitution, Eighth Amendment, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html
xi United Nations Human Rights Convention, http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx
xii Mental Health America, http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/positions/life-without-parole-juveniles
xiii Roper v. Simmons, 543 __ (2005).
xiv Graham v. Florida, 560 __ (2010).
xv Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. __ (2012).
xvi Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. __ (2012).