University of Miami Law Review


The juvenile life without parole (“JLWOP”) caselaw is based in part on the science underlying adolescent brain development. Numerous research studies have examined the behaviors and brain processes of adolescents. Courts have relied on these findings in reaching some of its most important decisions affecting juveniles implicated in the criminal justice system. The latest of those decisions came in 2021 with the Jones v. Mississippi case before the United States Supreme Court. The Court held that a sentencing court is not required to make a specific finding of permanent incorrigibility before sentencing the juvenile defendant to life without parole. This Comment exposes the contradiction implicit in the permanent incorrigibility standard applied in JLWOP cases: how can juveniles be found to have transient characteristics but also be deemed permanently incorrigible? Specifically, the paradox lies in a discretionary JLWOP sentence because it implies that the juvenile’s crime reflects permanent incorrigibility, and the child is forever incapable of being reformed. However, adolescent brain science supports the findings that juveniles possess temporary attributes, and the adolescent brain continues to develop through adulthood, such that juveniles have an enhanced capacity for rehabilitation. Moreover, courts have adopted these scientific truths as binding precedent. Ultimately, the Supreme Court justices missed a perfect opportunity in Jones to eliminate the contradictory permanent incorrigibility standard from the JLWOP sentencing scheme.