Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No More Life Without Parole for Juveniles

All of today's Supreme Court headlines are about immigration, a decision that seems to me pretty much irrelevant -- local cops don't have the time or money to enforce immigration laws, no matter what state laws say. I think the decision finding that giving juveniles life-without-parole sentences is cruel and unusual punishment is much more important. The U.S. is (or was) the only democracy that imposes such sentences. These laws were a product of the fear produced by the great crime wave of the 80s and 90s, and they were always both cruel and stupid. What sense does it make to keep a 65-year-old man in prison for something he did when he was 15?

UPDATE: What do you know, George Will and I agree on this one. Although dubious of the court's legal reasoning -- how, he wants to know, can something be "cruel and unusual" when it is mandated by 29 states? -- he agrees very much that life sentences for juveniles ought to be unusual, and he gratuitously adds that he feels the same way about extended solitary confinement. Perhaps legal reforms will be the great area of left-right cooperation over the next decade.

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