According to a new report released by the Sentencing Project, juveniles sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole are subject to socioeconomic and racial disparities, corrections policies that inhibit rehabilitation, and harsher punishments than comparable adults.
The United States is the only country in the world that sentences juveniles to life in prison without parole. Due to an inability to navigate the justice system at such a young age, juveniles often reject plea agreements that many adults take. Thus, juveniles are often sentenced to harsher punishments than adults with similar offenses. Additionally, 38% of lawyers representing juvenile lifers have been subject to numerous disciplinary actions.
Of course, race also plays a significant role in all of this. Black youth account for 28 percent of juvenile arrests, yet they also account for 35 percent of all juvenile defendants sent to adult court. Additionally, juveniles charged with killing a white person are 22 percent less likely to receive a plea deal than those charged with the murder of a black person.
The Sentencing Project is calling on lawmakers to stop the practice of sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole.
“‘We know that young people are capable of change, and we really need to set up a system that allows us to take their age into consideration,’ Kent told HuffPost. ‘Children are fundamentally different than adults and that difference needs to be placed in the context of sentencing and how we hold young people accountable.’
The report urges lawmakers to strike down life-without-parole sentences for those younger than 18 and to conduct periodic parole reviews and public hearings every five years. It also calls for parole reviews for juveniles serving life sentences with the possibility of parole after 10 years.
‘We are compounding the tragedy of serious crime by virtually throwing away the lives of these children,’ the Rev. Joe Summers of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, said in a statement. ‘The idea that youth can never change flies in the face of all that we know and is against any sense of moral redemption.'”
Click here to check out the Sentencing Project’s new report “The Lives of Juvenile Lifers: Findings from a National Survey”
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