Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

The US Supreme Court is currently considering a case about whether juveniles who are convicted of murder should be eligilbe for parole. Currently, most states do not allow those who were minors when convicted of murder any opportunity for parole. In recent years the Supreme Court has already abolished the death penalty for minors (2005) and ruled out death sentences without parole except in cases of homicide (2010).

The state of California is also considering a bill that would make it possible for juveniles convicted of murder to have access to parole.

All of this is coming from this case. Elizabeth Lozano was sentenced to life in prison while a minor for a gang-related murder. She is now working with fellow inmates who are teenagers, trying to counsel them to shape up their lives. Her work in prison is raising awareness about why she can never be released from prison.

The linked article gives reasons why the current policy is wrong-headed: "The attorneys for the 14-year-olds point to forensic evidence that a teenager's brain is not fully developed and that youths consequently take too many risks. The research comes from Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. "Adolescents, because of their immaturity, should not be deemed as culpable as adults," Steinberg said. "But they also are not innocent children whose crimes should be excused."

Where do you stand on the issue of juvenile crimes? Should these minors be given a second chance after serving a certain amount of time on good behavior? Is this a form of "cruel and unusual punishment" as banned in the 8th amendment? Or are they still too much of a menace to society?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Carry and Concel

It is currently illegal to carry a concealed weapon in California except for some rural areas. Therefore, some areas are allowing open carry laws for its citizens. Gun owning advocates are hopeful that the Supreme Court will soon rule in favor of a broader law to allow concealed weapons.

The second amendment reads as follows: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Would the right to carry a concealed weapon fall into this amendment? Would a law allowing for concealed weapons make society safer or more dangerous?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Birth Control Debate

There has been some controversy recently over President Obama's decision to require health plans to provide free birth control for its customers. Specifically Catholic hospitals feel that it violates their freedom of religion to preach against the use of birth control. While you are free to comment on that issue, I would like to make this issue hit closer to home. Would you support tax payer funded birth control handed out at your school? The arguments are the same: would such a policy limit STDs' and pregnancy or does it advocate sexual activity?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Prop 8 Unconstitutional

A federal appeals court ruled today that California's voter approved proposition 8 (passed in 2008 by voters) that outlawed gay marriage is unconstitutional. The judges claimed that "The people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry."

Do you agree?

This brings up the classic question for any democracy: How should a democracy balance the will of the majority against the rights of the minority? Should an open society prevent same-sex couples from being married? This also brings up the question of role marriage should play in society. Is the sole purpose of marriage to procreate?

The Supreme Court now has the option of hearing this case. We will soon learn whether the US Supreme Court sees a reason to take this case.