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Meaningless Opportunities: Graham v. Florida’s 'Meaningful Opportunity for Release' for Juvenile Offenders and the Reality of De Facto LWOP Sentences


Mark Freeman


McGeorge Law Review

March 15, 2012

McGeorge Law Review, Vol. 44, 2013

Abstract:     
In 2010 the United States Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, which held that LWOP sentences for juvenile, non-homicide offenders were unconstitutional. This Comment argues that de facto LWOP sentences, lengthy term of years sentences that exceed a juvenile's natural life expectancy and effectively guarantee the offender will die in prison, are also unconstitutional for juvenile non-homicide offenders.

Part II provides a brief overview of the Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence and how lower courts have responded to Graham. Part III explains why de facto LWOP sentences for juveniles who commit non-homicide crimes will fail the Supreme Court’s traditional Eighth Amendment tests and argues for a categorical ban against these sentences. Part IV discusses the practical implications of this Comment and whether juvenile offenders will see any meaningful change if courts adopt a categorical ban. Part V concludes that courts should embrace the spirit of Graham’s holding and provide a meaningful opportunity for juvenile offenders to experience life outside of prison before they die.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 47

Keywords: Eighth Amendment, Graham v. Florida, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Juvenile Justice, Sentencing, Punishment, LWOP, Juvenile, Prison, de facto LWOP, national consensus, Meaningful Opportunity for Release, youth sentencing, life imprisonment without parole, Miller v. Alabama

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Date posted: August 2, 2012 ; Last revised: August 20, 2012

Suggested Citation

Freeman, Mark, Meaningless Opportunities: Graham v. Florida’s 'Meaningful Opportunity for Release' for Juvenile Offenders and the Reality of De Facto LWOP Sentences (March 15, 2012). McGeorge Law Review, Vol. 44, 2013. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2122758

Contact Information

Mark Freeman (Contact Author)
McGeorge Law Review ( email )
3200 Fifth Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95817
United States
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