For Immediate Release

Contact: Rob Grant, Communications Director
202.966.7300, Ext. 119

Caitlyn Camacho, Communications & Marketing Coordinator
202.966.7300, Ext. 154

Washington, D.C., June 25, 2012 - The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) is pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that, "mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishments.'" The 5-4 ruling represents a victory in the recognition that adolescents are different from adults.

Today, the Court said that mandatory sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional for juveniles convicted of homicide. The ruling reversed prior decisions in the robbery and murder cases of Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson, who were 14 at the time of their crimes.

Justice Kagan wrote, "Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features - among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences. It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds him - and from which he cannot usually extricate himself - no matter how brutal or dysfunctional. It neglects the circumstances of the homicide offense, including the extent of his participation in the conduct and the way familial and peer pressures may have affected him."

Today's decision builds on prior rulings where the Court struck harsh sentences for youth, citing their developmental and neurological differences from adults. "The evidence presented to us in these cases indicates that the sci¬ence and social science supporting Roper's and Graham's conclusions have become even stronger."

Justice Kagan was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

To read the Court's decision, click here.

In March, to help the Court address the issues raised by permitting the imprisonment of a juvenile for life without the possibility of parole as punishment for homicidal crimes, AACAP with the American Medical Association submitted an amici curiae brief based on the science of adolescent behavior and brain development. The brief asserted that adolescents behave differently because their brains are not fully developed and exhibit functional differences from mature, adult brains.

Recent research has also demonstrated that the brain continues to change and develop throughout the teen years and into early adulthood. As a result, adolescents are more likely to respond impulsively, utilizing a more primitive part of their brain.

Additionally, the deterrent value of life without parole has yet to be demonstrated. It is particularly unlikely to deter adolescents from crime, as they tend to live in the present, think of themselves as invincible, and have difficulty contemplating the long-term consequences of their behavior.

For these reasons, AACAP continues to strongly oppose the imposition of life without parole for all crimes committed by juveniles of any age.

AACAP reference materials include:

Life Without Parole for Juvenile Offenders
Click here for more information.

Juvenile Life Without Parole: Review of Sentences
Click here for more information.

Evan Miller v. State of Alabama (2012)
United State Supreme Court, Nos. 10-9646, 10-9647. Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry as Amici Curiae based on scientific evidence on how the structural and functional immaturities of the adolescent brain affect judgment.
Click here for more information.

Terrance Jamar Graham v State of Florida (2009)
United States Supreme Court, Nos. 08-7412, 08-7621. District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District
The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry as Amici Curiae in support of neither party.
Click here for more information.

Donald P. Roper, Superintendent, Potosi Correctional Center v. Christopher Simon (2004)
United State Supreme Court, Nos. 08-7412, 08-7621. Supreme Court of Missouri
AMICUS CURIAE of the American Bar Association in support of the respondent based on juvenile offenders generally do not have the heightened moral culpability that the Court requires for the imposition of the death penalty.
Click here for more information.

To learn more about AACAP's policies, or to speak with an expert, please contact Caitlyn Camacho, Communications Coordinator, at 202.966.7300, ext. 154 or


Representing over 8,500 child and adolescent psychiatrists nationwide, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) is the leading authority on children's mental health.

AACAP Members actively research, diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders affecting children, adolescents and their families. For more information please visit