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Timothy Faganis a professor at Columbias Law School and its Mailman School of Public Health and serves as co-director of the Center for Crime Community and Law He is an expert on the juvenile justice system and a member of theMacArthur Foundation Research Program on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice Here he discusses the legal and social implications of sentencing juveniles to life without parole and the history of Americas approach to young criminals This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted Jan 23 2007What is the benefit of life without parole and what is the real problem that society should be concerned withThe rationales for punishment include retribution deterrence and incapacitation On the question of deterrence theres almost no deterrent rationale from life without parole -- certainly no greater deterrent effect for life without parole compared to simply a sentence of life We have no reason to believe that that extra 10 or 15 years of incarceration beyond the age of 45 or 50 years old is going to have any greater benefit in terms of convincing a juvenile not to commit a crime tomorrow than would simply a sentence of life The reason is because kids simply are imperfect decision makers and they dont foresee consequences Theyre very present-oriented as we say in psychology they consider only the immediate cost and the immediate benefits Theyre really not going to worry about punishment thats way down the road They discount it in other words So theres very little deterrent effect of a life-without-parole sentence over and above the deterrent effect of a life sentence or even a 40-year sentenceRetribution is hard if juveniles are imperfect decision makers In theRopercase the juvenile death penalty case the Supreme Court said that retribution purposes probably arent served by extremely harsh punishments in part because juveniles are too young to perceive the moral cost of their act So retributive purposes arent really served by
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