Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Possibility of Parole

George Will is predictably too deferential to Antonin Scalia and his brand of self-serving originalism, but credit where credit is due, he takes a principled stand on a "law and order" issue:
Denying juveniles even a chance for parole defeats the penal objective of rehabilitation. It deprives prisoners of the incentive to reform themselves. Some prisons withhold education, counseling and other rehabilitation programs from prisoners ineligible for parole. Denying these to adolescents in a period of life crucial to social and psychological growth stunts what the court in 2005 called the prisoner’s “potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity.” Which seems, in a word — actually, three words — “cruel and unusual.”
I'm not going to argue that there are no juvenile offenders who, at the end of the day, should not spend their lives behind bars in the interest of protecting the rest of society. In some cases, serious juvenile offenses may reveal "the susceptibility of juveniles to immature and irresponsible behavior", but in others they reveal a depravity that will last a lifetime. But there's no reason to believe that, by the time a juvenile reaches or passes his thirties, a parole board will have great difficulty distinguishing one from the other.

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