In Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a sentence of life without parole ("LWOP") for a juvenile under eighteen who commits a non-homicide offense. For Terrance Graham, who committed home-invasion robbery at seventeen, the decision does not mean necessarily that he someday will leave the brick walls of Florida's Taylor Annex Correctional Institution. Unlike previous Eighth Amendment decisions, such as Roper v. Simmons, where the Court barred the death penalty for juveniles, this new categorical rule does not translate into automatic relief for members of the exempted class: "A State need not guarantee the offender eventual release," Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority, "but if it imposes a sentence of life it must provide him or her with some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of that term." Graham offers the possibility of redemption but not its guarantee.
Robert Smith & G. B. Choen,
Redemption Song: Graham v. Florida and the Evolving Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence,
Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol108/iss1/2