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Reducing incarceration for youthful offenders with a developmental approach to sentencing.

Buckingham, Samantha
June 4, 2015

Source: (2013) Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review.46:801-884.

Current sentencing practices have proven to be an ineffective
method of rehabilitating criminal defendants. Such practices are
unresponsive to developmental science breakthroughs, fail to promote
rehabilitation, and drain society’s limited resources. These deficiencies
are most acute when dealing with youthful offenders. Incarcerating
youthful offenders, who are amenable to rehabilitative efforts, under
current sentencing practices only serves to ensure such individuals will
never become productive members of society. Drawing on the author’s
experiences as a federal public defender, studies in developmental
psychology and neuroscience, and the Supreme Court’s recent line of
cases that acknowledge youthful offenders’ biological diferences from
adult offenders, the author proposes a restorative-justice approach to
replace current sentencing practices. This solution includes tailoring a youthful offender’s sentence to his or her developmental level and
requiring a community-based mediation between victims and offenders.
The proposal counteracts a major deficiency of current sentencing
practices-the failure to offer youthful offenders an opportunity to truly
understand their crimes. Only by doing so will a youthful offender be in
a position to rehabilitate. This Article responds to possible critiques of
the proposal, including concerns about the ability to accurately
measure the success of a restorative-justice sentencing model, the fear
of implicating the offender’s Fifth Amendment right against self
incrimination, and the cost of implementing mediation-based efforts.
Ultimately, this Article determines that a developmentally appropriate,
community-based sentencing scheme-with restorative justice
overtones-best addresses the unique situation youthful offenders find
themselves in. A sentence for a youthful offender should-indeed,
must-present meaningful opportunities for the youthful offender to
rehabilitate, and age-appropriate sentences grounded in restorativejustice
principles will do this effectively.(author’s abstract)


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