The inequalities in the system are even more pronounced in the states where we have data.

There are huge disparities in how the life without parole sentence is implemented for youth.  African Americans are serving the sentence at a much higher rate in comparison to whites in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and California, where black youth are between 18 and 48 times more likely to be serving a life without  parole sentence than white youth, on a per capita basis. [i]

California

  • In California, for every 123 white youth arrested for murder, one is serving life without parole, but there is only one person serving life without parole for every 21 African American youth arrested for murder in the state.[ii]  
  • Hispanic youth in California serve life without parole at a rate that is five times higher than that of white youth in the state.[iii]

 

Mississippi

  • 57% of young people sentenced to life without parole in Mississippi have received this sentence for the murder of a white victim, and only 30% are serving such a sentence for the murder of a black victim.  Even though 73.9% of homicide victims were African American between 1994 and 2005 and 24.5% of victims in Mississippi were white. [iv]

 

Michigan

  • The vast majority of people serving life without parole for a crime committed in their youth in Michigan are people of color.  In fact, 211 of 221 people serving the sentence are African-American[v]

 

Massachusetts

  • African American youth are over represented when you compare the percentage of young people in Massachusetts to those serving life without parole and also are overrepresented as compared to the overall population of people in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.  Twenty-eight percent of the state’s prison population is African American, as compared to 47% of those sentenced to life without parole under age 18.[vi]

 

Colorado

  •  4.4 percent of all children in Colorado are black, whereas black children make up 26 percent of those serving life without parole. Conversely, 70.9 percent of children in Colorado are white, and yet they make up only 29 percent of the children serving life without parole.[vii]

 

Washington State

  • African American youth make up 23.76 percent and Native American youth make up 4.46 percent of youth receiving sentences longer than ten years in Washington, although they only make up about 7 percent of the total population of young people in the state.[viii]

 


[i] Human Rights Watch & Amnesty International. (2005, October 11). The rest of their lives: Life without parole for child offenders in the United States,  42. Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/us1005/

[ii] Human Rights Watch. (2008, January). “When I die, they’ll send me home”: Youth sentenced to life without parole in California (Volume 20 No. 1), 29. Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2008/us0108/us0108web.pdf

[iii] Human Rights Watch. (2008, January). “When I die, they’ll send me home”: Youth sentenced to life without parole in California (Volume 20 No. 1), 25. Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2008/us0108/us0108web.pdf

[iv] NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund. (2008, April 1). No chance to make it right: Life without parole for juvenile offenders in Mississippi, 21. Retrieved from http://naacpldf.org/files/publications/No_Chance_to_Make_it_Right.pdf

[v] ACLU of Michigan. (n.d.). Second chances: Juveniles serving life without parole in Michigan prisons, 6. Retrieved from http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/Publications/Juv%20Lifers%20V8.pdf.

[vi] Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts. (2009, September). Until they die a natural death: Youth sentenced to life without parole in Massachusetts, 15. Retrieved from http://www.clcm.org/UntilTheyDieaNaturalDeath9_09.pdf

[vii] Human Rights Watch. (2005, February). Thrown away: Children sentenced to life without parole in Colorado, 16. Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/us0205.pdf

[viii] Washington Coalition for the Just Treatment of Youth. (2009, January). A reexamination of youth involvement in the adult criminal justice system in Washington: Implications of new findings about juvenile recidivism and adolescent brain development, 9. Retrieved from http://www.columbialegal.org/files/JLWOP_cls.pdf