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This essay was the keynote address for a symposium on Miller v Alabama, the 2012 Supreme Court opinion holding unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment a statute imposing a mandatory sentence of life without parole for juveniles convicted of homicide. The essay argues that Miller embodies a way of thinking about juvenile crime that has taken hold in the early 21st century – an approach that emphasizes the importance for legal policy of developmental differences between juveniles and adults. This emerging trend contrasts sharply with the regulatory approach of the 1990s when moral panics over juvenile crime fueled punitive law reforms that transformed juvenile justice policy. The essay describes this period of moral panic and the factors that have contributed to a more deliberative pragmatic response to youth crime in recent years. Finally it proposes strategies aimed at limiting the harmful impact of moral panics that inevitably will arise in the future – and reinforcing the current policy direction.


Constitutional Law | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Juvenile Law | Law