Nicole Beaudoin is a master’s candidate in the Professional Writing Program at UMass Dartmouth. Currently, she works with the University’s web team and teaches Business Communications as a TA. She has a passion for literature, writing and especially dogs.
Adolescence is a time in life for making mistakes and learning lessons to carry into adulthood. But for the thousands of juvenile offenders in our country’s prison system, adolescence is just part of their life sentence without parole. For many of these youths, one wrong decision has led them to live their entire lives behind bars for committing what officials call “adult crimes,” when in fact they do not even understand these crimes.
In the New York Times discussion forum “room for debate,” Mark Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project and the author of Race to Incarcerate, argues that sentencing children is inherently different than sentencing adults:
…children are different than adults. As the Supreme Court noted in its 2005 decision in Roper v. Simmons banning the death penalty for juveniles, children do not have fully matured levels of judgment or impulse control, and are more susceptible to peer pressure than adults.
Mauer says that children are “uniquely capable of change…No matter how serious a crime committed by a 13-year-old, there is no means of predicting what type of adult he or she will become in 10 or 20 years.”
While the crimes some juveniles have committed are very serious – murder, rape, home invasion – many offenders twice their age commit the same crimes and serve minimal sentences and receive parole. Why don’t youths receive the same chance for change?