Text Box:  Text Box:  Juvenile Justice






Anyone under the age of 18

Juvenile Delinquent


Juvenile who commits an act that would be a crime if they were an adult.


Should Teens Get Life Sentences?

The United States is the only country in the world whose courts sentence people to life in prison for crimes committed while they were teenagers.  It is also the only country that refused to support a recent United Nations resolution to bar life imprisonment without the chance of parole for crimes committed by young adults.  In the U.S. today, there are 73 people serving life sentences for crimes they committed when they were 13 or 14—nearly half of them in Pennsylvania or Florida.  Several human rights groups now are demanding that states reconsider the use of life sentences, including the Equal Justice Initiative, which tracks the number of people serving such sentences.  But prosecutors and the families of crime victims argue that there are crimes so terrible that only a punishment of life in prison fits them, no matter the age of the perpetrator. 

A 2005 Supreme Court decision, (based on a few of the cases you read above) however, banned the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people under the age of 18.  That decision referred to the fact that no other country in the world killed it’s juveniles criminals, even though it is rare for the Supreme Court to discuss the laws of other countries in its verdicts.  Human-rights groups hope that the 2005 decision, including its reference to international law, will influence future decisions to end the use of life sentences for juveniles.

As Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of Equal Justice Initiative, said, “Thirteen and 14-year old children should not be condemned to death in prison, because there is always hope for a child.”  Since most sentencing rules are set by states and not by the federal government, Stevenson’s group and others have filed lawsuits against the punishment in states like Alabama, California, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

Directions:  Using the above reading, answer the following questions in complete sentences. Minimum: 3 sentence responses.

1.        Should teens ever be given a punishment of life in prison?  If so for what kinds of crimes?  If not, why not?



2.      Do you agree that juveniles should never get life sentences because “there is always hope for a child”?



3.      When the Supreme Court makes a decision, should it consider the laws of other countries?  Explain


4.      Is juvenile crime a major problem   in your community?





5.      Do you think tougher sentences would lead to a drop in juvenile crime?  Why or why not?




6.      What is your opinion of the causes of juvenile crime?




7.       Should the parents of juvenile delinquents be held responsible for the crimes of their children?





False Charge


You have just been accused of a crime you did not commit.  You must consider your rights, your options and how to prove your innocence.


Directions:  Answer the following questions using your notes using at least 3 complete sentences.  Credit will only be given for proving your answers.


1.        What was needed to arrest you?




2.      What are your rights when you are arrested?




3.      What events/procedures take place in the court system?  (Steps in a criminal case)







4.      What are your rights and guarantees in each phase of the criminal case process?











5.      What do you do to ensure that your rights are protected?



6.      What happens if you are found guilty of the crimes?




7.      What are your options and rights after your trial?


Opinion question:  Answer the following question in a paragraph form with complete sentences.  Make sure you address each part of the question.


In your opinion, is the U.S. court system fair?  Why or why not?  What should be done to ensure the rights of people wrongly accused of crimes?