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  • April 2010
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Life Sentence

The U.S. is one of few countries in the world willing to sentence juveniles to life in prison without possibility of parole. Until the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision (Roper vs. Simmons) ending the possibility of the death sentence for juveniles, the U.S. was also one of the only countries in the world willing to execute young offenders.

Since 1973, 22 people were executed for crimes they committed under the age of 18. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the U.S. is one of only 8 countries to execute juveniles in the past 20 years. The others were China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

Laurence Steinberg, past president of the Society for Research on Adolescence, says that there are some kids who are truly rotten and dangerous, but there is no science that is able to identify which juveniles can be rehabilitated and which can’t. “The problem is that we’re very bad about picking them out,” he says. “And most adolescents that do harmful things when they are teenagers grow up to be law-abiding adults.”

And it’s one thing to do the time if you committed the crime, but in PA’s recent “jailing kids for cash” scandal, many teens with minor offences received harsh and unfair sentences.

Check out this article and visit the Juvenile Law Center’s site for more information, including helpful fact sheets about criminal records for minors and how to get a minor record expunged. Also be sure to read these gripping tales of life in the juvenile justice system:


Sara Dora, CLP-Hazelwood

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