“Friday was the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which details the special needs of youth, and therefore the special protections they require. Only the United States and Somalia have not ratified this convention. However, last week the Somali government announced their intention to ratify the treaty.

Our nation’s refusal to sign the most widely ratified human rights treaty, does not give us permission to ignore the rights of children in this country. Our nation should be a leader in protecting our most vulnerable population, rather than one that focuses on the question, “at what age is it most appropriate to give up on children?” When we ignore young people we are turning our back on essential American values.

We have a responsibility to change that. We have a responsibility to reform bad public policies that ignore the special characteristics of youth and declare them worthless human beings.

Therefore, in order to live in a society that reflects our values, we have a responsibility to end the practice of sentencing youth to life in prison without hope of ever being released.”

Jody Kent is the National Coordinator of the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth.