Volume 86, No. 1, Fall 2013

AS THOUGH THEY ARE CHILDREN: REPLACING MANDATORY MINIMUMS WITH INDIVIDUALIZED SENTENCING DETERMINATIONS FOR JUVENILES IN PENNSYLVANIA CRIMINAL COURT AFTER MILLER V. ALABAMA

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alaba and prohibited the imposition of mandatory life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) sentences on juvenile offenders. According to the Court in Miller, state-sentencing schemes violate the Eighth Amendment if they fail to provide juvenile offenders with both a proportionate and individualized sentence. However, juveniles tried in adult court in Pennsylvania are still subjected to the same mandatory minimum sentencing statutes as their adult counterparts. In order for Pennsylvania to fully comply with Miller, all mandatory minimum sentencing statutes should be inapplicable to juveniles and be replaced with a system of individualized sentencing that takes into consideration the inherent diminished culpability of children.

This Comment proceeds in four sections. Section II discusses the current state of juvenile sentencing policy in Pennsylvania. Section III discusses the judicial precedent and social science underlying Miller’s proportionality requirement. Section IV discusses the judicial precedent underlying Miller’s individualized sentencing requirement. Lastly, Section V examines Pennsylvania’s inadequate response to Miller, the available alternatives to mandatory sentencing for juveniles in Pennsylvania, and a recommended legislative change that would bring Pennsylvania into full compliance with Miller.

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