It is no accident that the United States is the only country in the world that incarcerates children for life. We have gotten here through “get tough on crime” legislation that included mandatory sentencing and the erosion of a foundational tenet of American juvenile justice: Children are different than adults.
But in recent years attitudes have changed. Advances in brain science have shown us what many were always saying – children’s brains (and their decision-making skills) are underdeveloped . Through modern scans there was physiological evidence that showed why teens often make bad decisions with no forethought and little regard for consequences. It’s not that they don’t “know right from wrong,” but that they often flawed reasoning in making decisions.
These advances helped prompt the Supreme Court to undo mandatory JLWOP sentences.
The timeline below illustrates those changes.