Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Ralph A. Rossum

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This research was focused on analyzing and interpreting the U.S. Supreme Court’s holdings in several cases that directly affect the juvenile justice system and the sentencing process of youth offenders. Drawing primarily from Miller v. Alabama (2012) and the Supreme Court’s ‘Miller doctrine’, this thesis goes against the viewpoints of many policymakers, arguing that life without parole and mandatory adult sentence minimums for youth offenders are ‘cruel and unusual’ punishments that are unconstitutional as sentencing options for a juvenile offender. In order to arrive at the conclusion that the aforementioned punishments violate a youth’s 8th Amendment right to a proportional sentence, this thesis drew from previously unavailable research in modern neuroscience that substantiates the Supreme Court’s claim that “Children are different” on a developmental basis and thus, can never possess the same degree of culpability for a crime as an adult offender.

If one accepts the conclusions made in this thesis, it is a matter only of when, not if, the sentencing process for youth offenders experiences a paradigm shift on a legislative level, and becomes a much more efficient and successful process where rehabilitation becomes the foremost goal. If science and developmental psychology support the Supreme Court’s assertion that nearly all juvenile crime-activity is the result of “transient immaturity,” then why are 16 year olds being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole? This thesis explores the possible answers to this question, and anticipates the possible impediments to national changes in juvenile sentencing procedures.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.