June 30, 2012

Regarding the June 26 front-page article “Mandatory life sentences without parole are rejected”:

As a former juvenile court judge, I firmly support the Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs.

It is misguided to condemn young offenders to irreversible punishments when they are capable of enormous transformation, particularly when exposed to rehabilitative programs.

Judges must now apply sentences that take into consideration a youth’s capacity for change. Sentencing should be done in a fair and thoughtful way that provides a genuine opportunity for a youth to demonstrate rehabilitation and appropriateness for release.

I commend the court for having the sound judgment to abolish the mandatory imposition of punishments that deny all hope for the future. No child should be sentenced to die in prison.

Gail Garinger, Newton, Mass.

The writer signed onto an amicus brief, written by former juvenile court judges, in the cases before the Supeme Court.

In his June 27 op-ed column on the Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama ruling, “Cruel and unusual,” George F. Will commended Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s assertion that the court is in no position to set society’s standards, but in reality the success of the justice’s dissenting opinion would have done just that.

An attempt to uphold a mandatory life sentence with no option of parole for juveniles asserts a values judgment that, because murder is always wrong, the most extreme punishment must always be served, disregarding any potential mitigating circumstances, such as the immaturity associated with young age or a rough home life.

Upholding this sentencing mandate would have involved the court in creating societal standards, which Mr. Alito so vehemently opposes.

Emily Simmonds, Arlington