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Why Proportionality Matters

The Supreme Court decided recently in Graham v. Florida that the
Eighth Amendment prohibits a sentence of life in prison without parole
for a nonhomicide crime committed by a minor. In its decision, the
Court stated that “[t]he concept of proportionality is central to the
Eighth Amendment” and that it is the “precept of justice that punishment for crime should be graduated and proportioned to [the] of-
fense.” What about proportionality makes it a matter of justice? And
how does proportionality cohere with our constitutional values? This
Article addresses these questions.