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The Supreme Court rules juvenile offenders should have a chance at parole

Courtesy of Equal Justice Initiative

Evan Miller (in the white shirt) was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he committed when he was 14.

The US Supreme Court Monday, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that almost all people convicted of crimes as juveniles should be allowed a chance at parole. California is among the 29 states that currently sentence at least some juveniles convicted of murder to life in prison with no possibility of getting out. In some states, it's the only possible sentence for murder crimes. 

In her opinion for the court, Justice Elena Kagan writes that the mandatory nature of these sentencing laws "runs afoul of our cases’ requirement of individualized sentencing for defendants facing the most serious penalties." She also points to scientific research showing that children's brains are not fully formed, meaning those convicted of crimes as children have less culpability and a greater "capacity for change" than adults. 

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