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Lifetime Sex-Offender Registration for Kids

Do you think sex-offender registration is punishment? What if it’s for life? What if it’s for a 12-year-old boy? Last week, the California Court of Appeal ruled that it’s not punishment to call a kid a sex offender for life because of something he did when he was twelve years old. According to the court, the boy’s early years Read More

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Judge Not, Lest We Be Judged

If you’re still not sold on the power of redemption, I may not be able to sway you. But consider this guy. He committed a carjacking at 16 and spent eight years in prison for it. Today, at 35, he has a wife, two bouncy sons, and now, a law degree from Yale. He just graduated last month. I Read More

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The Lowdown on California’s Proposition 57

Last week it was Proposition 64; this week, it’s Prop 57. Voters approved it by a wide margin, but what does it do? Two things for now. First, it amended the California Constitution to ensure parole eligibility for people who have been convicted of a nonviolent felony once they have served the full term for their primary offense. In layman’s terms, Read More

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Out of the Mouths (or Lives) of Babes

If you’re on probation, can the court require you to surrender your passwords to your electronic devices and social-media accounts, so they can be searched at any time? California has been weighing that question lately, and one month ago, the Court of Appeal issued decisions in two separate juvenile cases—one with a girl and one with a boy—that help Read More

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A Teenage Prank Gone Wrong

If you’re bored and feel compelled to shine a commercial laser pointer at passing aircraft, don’t do it, and if you need someone to explain to you why, ask one young man from North Hollywood, California, who was staring at a 30-month sentence in federal prison until three weeks ago, when the court of appeals reviewed his case and sent it back. The boy probably never saw it all coming, either. Three years Read More

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Pope Francis Calls for the End of LWOP Sentences

While California still tolerates sentences of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles, and Massachusetts has ruled them out entirely, there is variation nationwide in the use of life sentences—with or without the possibility of parole—in all cases and for all people. An interesting, multi-state report by The Sentencing Project identifies a total of 160,000 people as serving life sentences as of 2012, Read More

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Should We Ever Sentence Children to Life Without the Possibility of Parole?

What’s wrong with possibilities? Earlier this month, the California Court of Appeal held that a trial court could impose a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (or LWOP) on a 16-year-old boy even though the court could not rule out the possibility of rehabilitation. He’s older now, but the boy was just sixteen years old when he committed Read More

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Why We Defend Child Molesters

Here’s one reason. Last week, a federal court of appeals reversed the conviction of an 18-year-old boy who had confessed to molesting another 8-year-old boy. That may sound like an open-and-shut case of a predator or monster we should throw the book at, but hold on. The older boy had an IQ of 65, and the court reversed his conviction because it held that his so-called confession was Read More

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Massachusetts Says No to LWOP Sentences for Children and Adolescents

On Christmas Eve, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which is the highest court in the Commonwealth, held that sentences of life without the possibility of parole (or LWOP) for people under the age of 18 were unconstitutional, and it struck them down. The court based its ruling on the Eighth Amendment, and it observed that imposing LWOP sentences on minors was Read More

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