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June 26, 2012 1:02 PM Life Without Parole for Juveniles

By Mark Kleiman

I’ve never studied any of the esoteric disciplines – such as Kabbalah or Con Law – so I have no idea whether yesterday’s decision about mandatory life-without-parole for juveniles – the one that sparked a hissy-fit from Justice Alito – is good law or not. But to give you some idea how absolutely uncontroversial it is as policy, James Q. Wilson and John DiIulio both signed an amicus to the effect that the laws in question were passed under the influence of the “juvenile super-predator” idea, which has been conclusively discredited empirically. If those names aren’t familiar, DiIulio invented the term “juvenile super-predator.”

As Jonathan Zasloff points out, the Court majority didn’t say that no one could be locked up forever for a crime committed as a minor, merely that a law requiring such a sentence based on the charge at conviction alone without any individualized consideration was pointlessly cruel.

Footnote I’ve disagreed with both of them, but Jim Wilson had, and John DiIulio has, real class. Not many of us would be willing to say out loud, in a document going to he highest court in the land, “That idea I came up with? It was wrong.”

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the University of California Los Angeles.
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