The Juvenile Discount
Criminal Law Bulletin, Volume 54, 2018, Forthcoming
37 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2017
Date Written: November 27, 2017
Despite the broad principles of Miller and Graham, the Court has not provided a framework for the accurate and proportionate sentencing of juveniles that accounts for their diminished culpability. The United States’ juvenile overpunishment problem stems from assigning juvenile sentences that are both overly-severe and overly-imposed. This crisis extends far beyond juvenile life-without-parole sentences and infects sentencing practices for all offense levels.
This Article offers a statutory solution to the systemic overpunishment of children, providing the framework for appropriate recalibration of penalties by imposing a standardized deduction on juvenile sentences. Specifically, this Article proposes a statute implementing youth as a quantifiable mitigation factor and modifying sentences for juveniles by a 25% downward departure from the adult sentence for the same crime.
Part I of this Article explains the constitutional principles governing the imposition of JLWOP and how these principles should apply expansively. Part II offers a framework for sentencing juvenile offenders with a 25% discount from the appropriate adult sentence and explains how the juvenile discount will apply in various systems. Finally, Part III argues that this standardized approach to sentencing juveniles solves problems associated with mandatory minimums, virtual life sentences, elimination of parole boards, and the systemic overpunishment of children tried as adults. Part III also demonstrates how the juvenile discount — by treating juveniles as constitutionally different than adults — embodies proportional sentencing, satisfies the purposes of punishment, alleviates social and political problems, and operates as a specific framework under the guiding principles of Graham and Miller.
Keywords: eighth amendment, sentencing, juvenile justice, Miller, Graham
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation