Saturday, August 27, 2016

258.4 - Footnote: The US is the only nation to imprison children for life without parole

Footnote: The US is the only nation to imprison children for life without parole

I mentioned that the US imprisons more children than any other nation. It goes beyond that: The US is the only nation in the entire world that will sentence children to life in prison without parole.

As of 2012, there were over 2500 people in prison sentenced to, in effect, ;live and die in prison for crimes they committed as children. In several states, that sentence was mandatory for certain crimes.

But in that year, ,in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that that was unconstitutional, that sentencing rules had to take account of the fact that these are children.

As a result, some states dropped the practice entirely but some others still allowed for it as an option and some said the decision only applied to future cases, not past ones, so those already under such death-in-prison sentences were stuck.

So there were still about 2300 such cases when in January of this year the Supreme Court ruled that the earlier decision is indeed retroactive and do requires new sentencing hearings for everyone serving a mandatory life-without-parole sentence for an offense committed when they were under 18.

Which is good, obviously, but remember this does not mean that life without parole sentences for children have been banned, only that they can't be mandatory and so some states still have it as an option.

Which means in turn that the US remains the only nation in the world that has laws on the books that would lock up a child in prison for the rest of their life.

Sources cited in links:

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