Featured News 2018 The Truth Behind Minors Behind Bars

The Truth Behind Minors Behind Bars

When most people think about convicts serving life without parole, they typically assume adults. However, this is not always the case. There are over 2,000 juveniles who have been sentenced to life in prison without parole (LWOP) in America. These are juveniles who were convicted of their crimes between the ages of 15 and 18—many of whom have already spent a decade or two behind bars as of this year.

In almost every country around the world, juveniles are no longer sentenced to life without parole; however, the United States and Israel still allow child offenders to be imprisoned for life. The difference? Israel has 7 inmates in this situation, while the United States has 2,381. In this type of situation, the inmates do not have the opportunity to ever have a parole review; it is this grim fact that makes this the harshest penalty penalty short of execution.

Crimes that are getting juveniles convicted are different when the culprit is underage. The courts are not changing to take into consideration that juveniles are young, malleable, and less able to shoulder the responsibility of their actions. Due to their young age, they simply do not have the mental tools to make the same decisions as adults. This leads to a faulty judgment, as well as inappropriate actions derived from extreme emotions.

The Harshness of Life Without Parole for Children

What is important to remember is that LWOP is a death sentence for a child carried out over their lifetime. It also makes them vulnerable to severe abuse. Studies have shown that juveniles are much more prone to suffering from physical abuse during their time spent in jail—likely associated with their lack of experience and the absence of support. Juveniles are 5 times as likely to suffer from sexual assault or rape during their incarceration.

In the United States, there are 45 states that currently allow for LWOP to be a possibility for juveniles who are criminally charged. In these, there are 13 that allow for this to be imposed on a child that is any age, while there is a single state that requires the child be a minimum of 8 years old. More than half of the children in the United States who are sentenced to life without parole have been convicted for their very first criminal offense. A quarter of them were convicted for felony murder when they did not carry the weapon at all—let alone pull the trigger.

The Human Rights Advocates has recently taken an active interest into the issue of children serving this type of prison sentence. Despite the fact that crime rates have been steadily dropping across the nation, there has been a 200+ percent increase in the number of juveniles who are spending time behind bars. This has led to such actions as SC 9, a piece of legislation that would have allowed for minors to always have an eventual chance of parole—so long as they served at least 25 years and showed genuine remorse. This, however, fell short of the necessary votes, although the proponents of the bill say that it will be brought up again for reconsideration.

If your child has committed a crime, the courts may not be as lenient as you think. Contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.

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