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LDF Attorney Calls for Fair Treatment of Children in the Criminal Justice System

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Writing in The Root, Vincent Southerland, Senior Counsel in LDF's Criminal Justice Project, urges policy makers to use the opportunity presented by the US Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama to treat children convicted of crimes fairly.  In Miller, the Court recognized what we all  know and understand: Age matters. Children are immature and irresponsible. They do not appreciate the risks and consequences of their behavior. Relying on this fundamental, commonsense and scientifically supported truth, the court's decision in Miller barred mandatory life-without-parole sentences for young people who committed their crimes when they were under the age of 18.  

Unfortunately, some states have reacted to the decision in Miller by seeking to avoid its undeniable truth about the differences between children and adults and  continue a policy of imposing inappropriately harsh sentences on children convicted of crimes.  LDF has long fought to end the practice of imposing life without parole and other harsh sentences on children.  As Mr. Southerland writes "legislators and policymakers should look to the wealth of multidisciplinary research around adolescent-brain development to identify appropriate sentences that account for the diminished culpability of young offenders and a child's capacity for rehabilitation . . . Those tasked with shaping the future must work to ensure that every child -- even those who have committed crimes -- has the chance to grow, reflect and re-enter society as a law-abiding citizen. 

Read The Root article here.