This blog and the accompanying resource are part of a Shaped monthly series providing teachers for Grades 6–12 with downloadable U.S. history classroom resources and discussion topics
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases—Miller v. Alabama (2006) and Jackson v. Hobbs (1999)—as combined companion cases. Both of them dealt with mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders. The question before the U.S. Supreme Court was whether these sentences violated the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
In a 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for juvenile homicide offenders violates the Eighth Amendment. However, the ruling does not prevent states from imposing sentences without parole for homicides, but the age of a defendant must be considered in sentencing.
Start a discussion with your students about the Eighth Amendment with this Miller v. Alabama lesson plan where students can read more about the case and answer two questions on the topic.
Learn more about HMH Social Studies, including the Judicial Inquiries program for middle and high school students to study 25 landmark Supreme Court cases that continue to impact their lives.
Read more blogs about teaching Supreme Court cases, including:
- Religion in Schools: Engel v. Vitale
- Debating the Pledge of Allegiance in Schools: West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette
- Drug Testing in High School Athletics: Vernonia School District v. Acton
- You Have the Right to Remain Silent: Miranda v. Arizona
- Freedom of Speech in Schools: Tinker v. Des Moines
- The Fourth Amendment in Schools: New Jersey v. T.L.O.
- Affirmative Action in Higher Education: University of California Regents v. Bakke
- Abortion Rights: Planned Parenthood v. Casey
- Due Process: Goss v. Lopez