In 2009, 17 year-old Bryce Dull was charged as an adult with the rape of a 13-year old girl he had been dating. Finding
that Dull had a “mental impairment” and that there was no
disagreement about the nature of the relationship between the
two, the trial judge sentenced Dull to 45 months in prison and
imposed mandatory lifetime supervision. That supervision
included restricting Dull’s travel, notifying employers of his
offender status, banning any ownership or possession of a
firearm, and making him subject to search at any time by state
Dull appealed his lifetime supervision, arguing that under
the Eighth Amendment these lifelong restrictions on his
liberty constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The Kansas
Court of Appeals rejected Dull’s
argument, noting that although the
punishment is harsh, Dull would
still have opportunity to reenter
society as a free and productive
citizen. The Kansas Supreme Court,
however, later held that the Eight
Amendment categorically prohibits
lifetime supervision for a juvenile. The
decision was based, in part, on the U.S.
Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. Florida (2010), which
held that a life term without the possibility of parole was barred
by the Eighth Amendment for juveniles.
A petition for certiorari seeking appellate review of the
Kansas Supreme Court’s decision is pending before the U.S.
Supreme Court. In Graham, the Supreme Court identified
four penal goals for determining if a sentence is so grossly
disproportionate that it violates the Eighth Amendment.
They are retribution, deterrence, incapacitation and
This case raises important questions about the policy goals
and legal limitations of sentencing and post-release restrictions
for both juveniles and those who commit sexual offenses. The
Kansas Supreme Court based its opinion, in part, on empirical
data showing that juveniles have lower rates of sexual recidivism
than do adult offenders and are more likely to respond
favorably to treatment. Moreover, the court relied on an analysis
by University of Northern Kentucky professor Amy Halbrook,
which found that post-release restrictions ostracize juveniles
and undermine their ability to successfully re-integrate into the
community (Hastings Law Journal, 2013).
On the other hand, data suggest that those who commit
sex offenses early in life tend to be the most likely to re-offend.
So while most juvenile offenders do not go on to re-offend,
a dangerous few may benefit from close monitoring and
supervision. Considerable efforts have gone into identifying
which sex offenders are at highest risk of offending again.
Perhaps more careful research might be done with juvenile sex
offenders to distinguish those in the early stages of a predatory
career from the majority of adolescents who commit their
offenses as a result of “transient immaturity,” as it was put in
Roper v. Simmons, the landmark Supreme Court decision that
it is unconstitutional to impose capital punishment for crimes
committed while under the age of 18. Imposing a lifetime
restriction on an individual’s liberty must account for these
empirical findings. n
“Judicial Notebook” is a project of APA’s Div. 9 (Society for the
Psychological Study of Social Issues).
Is lifetime supervision
for juvenile sex offenders
By Cynthia Calkins, PhD, John Jay College of Criminal Justice,
and Robert A. Beattey, JD, MA, Graduate Center at City University of New York
This case raises important questions about the
policy goals and legal limitations of sentencing
and post-release restrictions for both juveniles
and those who commit sexual offenses.