washingtonpost.com

The May 5 news story “High Court to Look at Life Sentences for Juveniles” may have left readers with the impression that the United States is not the only country that sentences youths to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but the sad fact is that it is.

While the rest of the world has recognized what science has told us — that adolescents aren’t fully developed or able to use adult reasoning — U.S. sentencing laws lag behind the times. The Supreme Court’s decision to review two cases in which youths were sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole will highlight the question of whether such sentences violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The cases the Supreme Court will consider shed light on the fact that there should be careful review of all life sentences given to youths, including the 2,574 people currently serving life without parole for crimes committed when they were under 18. No youth should be sentenced to die in prison, denied the opportunity to ever argue for his or her freedom, or stripped of all hope and the opportunity for rehabilitation.

JODY KENT
Coordinator
National Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth Washington