Retributive Justice and Mandatory Life Imprisonment for Juvenile Offenders

Retributive Justice and Mandatory Life Imprisonment for Juvenile Offenders
Question 1.

In Chapter 5 of the textbook, the author examines retributive justice from the standpoint of the means of punishment (Section 5.2). He calls attention to the length of prison sentences and, in particular, the issue of mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declared laws that require judges to impose life-without-parole sentences for juveniles to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments.” The decision (Miller v. Alabama) was a 5-4 split in the Court – which is typical of many such decisions that apply the cruel and unusual punishment provision.

Your initial post must analyze the retributive justice issues of mandatory, life-without-parole sentences. Consider the facts of Miller v. Alabama: Defendant Miller, a 14-year old boy, with an accomplice beat the victim with a baseball bat and set his trailer on fire with the victim inside. Defendant Miller was tried as an adult for capital murder while committing arson.

Is a mandatory, life-without-parole sentence just in such circumstances? Remember that “just” may or may not be the same as “constitutional." Summarize both the pros and the cons of your answer to this question, and critically evaluate these pros and cons, applying principles of retributive justice discussed in the text. Your evaluation must respond to the pros and cons, giving persuasive reasons why you agree with some and disagree with some.

Your initial post should be at least 300 words in length. Support your claims with examples from at least two of the required resources for this discussion, and properly cite any references.


Question 2.

In Chapter 5 of the text, the author discusses four alternatives to retributive justice: corrective justice, reformative justice, restorative justice, and transformative justice (see Section 5.3).

In “Case Study 5.5 – Dead Woman Walking,” the text describes the circumstances that led to the 1998 execution in Texas of Karla Faye Tucker. Before she was executed she requested, but was denied, clemency. Her cause was supported by many political, correctional, and moral leaders.

Would the application of any of the four alternatives to retribution have produced a more just outcome?

Your initial post must explain and apply each of the four alternative theories of justice to Karla Faye Tucker’s case. Also, critically evaluate each of the alternatives in the circumstances of her case. Why does each theory produce a more or less just outcome than the approach actually followed by the State of Texas? Finally, is the utility of each alternative limited to the unusual circumstances of Karla’s case or do they have value more generally to merit consideration as a more just approach than retributive justice?


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