Psychological Dynamics of Juvenile Crime

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The United States Supreme Court ruled on May 17, 2010, that it was cruel and unusual punishment (US const. amend. VIII) to sentence a juvenile to life without parole for non-homicide crimes. The case set before the Justices, Graham versus Florida, was supported by research based on neuropsychology in addition to multiple psychological disciplines. This unprecedented ruling acknowledges that the perpetrators of crime, who are still children in the eyes of the law, have a higher degree for successful rehabilitation in contrast to their adult counterparts. The ruling is a victory for many, but in Louisiana where Civil Napoleonic Code of law differs from the 49 Common Law States in America, what possibility of relief does it give to those sentence to life as juveniles, whether it be for non-homicide or homicidal offenses? It is evident through research that physiological, emotional and sociocultural circumstances that children endure during their crucial developmental stages have a direct affect on their psychological functioning. A case currently in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court allows the exploration of psychological aspect in juvenile crime. The defendant, Emerson Simmons, was born in 1977 into a middle class family with an ambitious father, a stay at home mother, and a four year old sister. The family had climbed the socio-economic ladder to upper class status by time the third child was born in 1982. The father was an emotionally and physically absent parent, while the mother consistently took on a nurturing, hands-on approach with the family. Although, both parents suffered childhood trauma, Emerson and his siblings were healthy, typically developing children with no signs of medical, psychological or neurological illne... ... middle of paper ... ... Analysis." National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (2010): 1-193. Web. Najdowski, C. J., Bottoms, B. L., & Vargas, M. C. (2009). Jurors' Perceptions of Juvenile Defendants: the Influence of Intellectual Disability, Abuse History, and Confession Evidence. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 27(3), 401-430. Doi:10.1002/bsl.873 Rohner, Ronald P., and Robert A. Veneziano. "The Importance of Father Love: History and Contemporary Evidence." Review of General Psychology 5.4 (2001): 382-405. Print. State of Louisiana v. Emerson W. Simmons. 1-8. 24th Judicial District Court. Oct. 1998. Print. "Supreme Court of the United States Limits Use of JLWOP." Citizens for Second Chances Issue 6 (2010). The Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. Web. . United States. The Constitution of the United States of America. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1976. Print.
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