Stevie Leahy

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Juvenile sentencing within the United States is but one illustration of how the legal system reinforces the marginalization of populations that have been historically underinvested and underrepresented. Throughout the past century, the macro-narrative on sentencing has fluctuated nationally, as well as within individual states, with the reasoning used to justify decisions sliding between the conflicting lenses of rehabilitation and punishment. This has necessarily impacted the micro-narrative—the way that an individual’s story is considered and weighed (or ignored) within sentencing. There are endless factors that affect outcomes in sentencing: class, race and or ethnicity, gender, and access to counsel are just a few examples. However, decades of jurisprudence from the Supreme Court of the United States has emphasized over and over that one particular factor requires special constitutional consideration: youth. Yet it is nearly impossible to consider the narrative of youth in isolation.