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Sentenced Arizona Juvenile Lifers: A Case Study of the Intersectionality of Sentencing, Race, and Prison-Misconduct Profiles


This study examined whether there were statistical associations between life sentence types, race, and profiles of persistent criminality among sentenced juvenile homicide offenders (JHOs). The Miller v. Alabama (2012) decision required judges to differentiate irreparably corrupt JHOs from non-irreparably corrupt offenders in its sentencing considerations. The study analyzed a sample of 101 JHOs drawn from a population of 109 JHOs serving life sentences in Arizona prior to the Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) decision. The study employed a two-step clustering method to identify serious infraction profiles among Arizona juvenile lifers, focusing on major infractions committed in prison. The findings did not indicate any statistical associations between serious infraction profiles and the differentially sentenced groups of JHOs. Additionally, 61% of natural lifers belonged to the low and medium criminal persistence groups rather than the high criminal persistence group, deviating from the pronouncements in the Miller v. Alabama decision of reserving natural life sentences for irreparably corrupt JHOs. Furthermore, race demonstrated no significant association with criminal infraction profiles. The implications of these findings for future research, sentencing policies, and release decision-making processes have been discussed.

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We would like to thank the Arizona Justice Project at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law for the assistance provided by its student interns in creating the data set for this study.


The authors did not receive support from any organization for the submitted work.

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Correspondence to Husain Lateef.

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Lateef, H., Ashford, J.B. & Cornett, E. Sentenced Arizona Juvenile Lifers: A Case Study of the Intersectionality of Sentencing, Race, and Prison-Misconduct Profiles. Child Adolesc Soc Work J (2023).

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