Ferrier, David E.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Place of Publication
In the state of Tennessee, juvenile offenders convicted as adults for first-degree murder must receive a minimum sentence of 51 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. Tennessee’s minimum juvenile sentencing guideline is the strictest in the United States. In 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that sentencing juvenile offenders to life is unconstitutional citing psychological evidence for a juvenile’s ability to be rehabilitated in comparison to adults (Miller v. Alabama, 2012). Tennessee’s 51-year minimum juvenile sentencing standard is a potential violation of this ruling because it has been shown that the life expectancy in prison is unlikely to reach more than fifty years (Patterson, 2013; Wildeman, 2016). Furthermore, Tennessee’s minimum sentencing guideline for juvenile homicide offenders appears to disregard psychological evidence that indicates that juvenile offenders should not be treated the same as adults (e.g., Cauffman & Steinberg, 2012; Cohen & Casey, 2013; Mulvey & Schubert, 2012; Scott, Grisso, Levick, & Steinberg, 2015). In this policy analysis, the inadequacy of the current minimum sentencing standard is evaluated, and it is argued as to why this sentencing standard should be substantially lowered. The central thesis of the analysis utilizes empirical evidence gathered from the psychological and legal literatures to support why Tennessee’s current policy disregards scientific research. Ultimately, this evidence is used to support the idea that Tennessee’s minimum sentencing law for juveniles is inappropriate and to inform alternative proposals.
B. S.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Science.
Criminal procedure -- Tennessee; Criminal law -- Tennessee; Sentences (Criminal procedure) -- Tennessee
Hurst, Natalie P., "Policy analysis of Tennessee's 51-to-life law: juvenile sentencing reform" (2019). Honors Theses.