Despite the presumption of innocence, we know that individuals accused of crimes are punished for maintaining their innocence in ways both tangible and intangible as they make their way through our criminal justice system. For example, even if instructed not to, jurors may infer guilt from a defendant’s failure to testify; defendants who exercise their right to go to trial receive lengthier sentences if convicted than those who plead guilty; and, once convicted, defendants who maintain their innocence are often denied opportunities for parole or clemency. This article explores whether these “innocence penalties” are even greater for children who are accused of crimes and comes to the preliminary view that the answer is yes. The main focus of the juvenile system is on redemption and rehabilitation, concepts that assume guilt. This article seeks to promote conversation about this important topic and create more room for the consideration of innocence in the juvenile system.



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