Imprisoning Children for Life - by Stephen Lendman
The University of San Francisco School of Law Center for Law and Global Justice and the Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic, in association with the Berkeley-based Human Rights Advocates, work for global abolition of juvenile life without parole (LWOP) sentencing, calling it inappropriate for children and illegal.
In November 2007, they published a report titled, "Sentencing Our Children to Die in Prison," making their case, saying:
-- children given LWOP are "condemned to die in prison;"
-- dispensed in adult courts, they ignore the "less(er) culpability of juvenile offenders; their ineptness at navigating the criminal justice system; their potential for rehabilitation, reintegration into society," and known child development principles "established through national standards and international human rights law;"
-- only two countries impose LWOP sentences - the United States and Israel, America having 99.9% of all cases; however, nine others permit them, but no known cases exist in - Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Brunei, Cuba, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, and Sri Lanka; two other countries, South Africa and Tanzania, abandoned the practice;
-- Black children are ten times more likely to get LWOP than while ones, and in California it's 20 - 1; in other words, the darker one's skin, the greater the risk for harsh sentencing, and if rich, the chance is practically nil;
-- LWOP "violates international human rights standards of juvenile justice;" Article 37 of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) prohibits sentencing children under 18 to LWOP or death; imprisoning them should be a last resort for "the shortest appropriate period of time;" all countries ratified it except Somalia and America;
-- Article 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) requires children to be protected by their status as minors, and under the UN Convention Against Torture, LWOP amounts to cruel, unusual or degrading treatment.
LWOP sentences condemn children to death behind bars, prevent their rehabilitation in society, and violate international laws and norms that prohibit treating them like adults. They're less psychologically and neurologically developed, can't make the same reasoned judgments, and don't understand the long-term consequences of breaking the law.
In adult prisons, they're more vulnerable to physical abuse. Yet many endure it for years "because they have no 'prison experience', friends, companions or social support.' (They're) five times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult prisons than in juvenile facilities."
One study showed they've been:
"physically and sexually abused, neglected, and abandoned; their parents are prostitutes, drug addicts, alcoholics, and crack dealers; they grew up in lethally violent, extremely poor areas where health and safety were luxuries their families could not afford."
Hopelessness overwhelms them, extinguishing any motivation to develop and mature, reinforced by prison officials providing no education or life skills. As a result, juvenile LWOP is near universally condemned and prohibited, but not in America with at least 2,381 cases (including 149 from 2005 - 2007), and Israel with at least seven.
In both countries, reforms aren't expected despite evidence showing LWOP doesn't deter severe youth crimes, and it's as true for juvenile death penalties. Moreover, the Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons (2005), reasoned that: