Dozens of children in U.S. face life in prison
ALABASTER, Alabama (Reuters) - Underage criminals cannot face the death penalty in the United States but dozens of offenders imprisoned for crimes committed when they were young teenagers will still die behind bars.
The U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for minors in 2005 but 19 states permit "life-means-life" sentences for those under 18, according to a study by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).
In all, 2,225 people are sentenced to die in U.S. prisons for crimes they committed as minors and 73 of them were aged 13 and 14 at the time of the crime, according to the group, which is based in Montgomery, Alabama.
Elsewhere in the world, life sentences with no chance of parole are rare for underage offenders. Human Rights Watch estimates that only 12 people outside the United States face such sentences.
Judicial reform advocates say the U.S. provision is an example of how harsh sentences have helped cause a jump in incarceration rates since the 1970s. The United States jails a higher percentage of its population than anywhere else in the industrialized world, these advocates say.
"These kids have been swept up in this tide of carceral control that is unparalleled in American history," said Bryan Stevenson, director of the EJI. "We have become quite comfortable about throwing people away," he said.
Others defend the statute, arguing it is popular with voters and gives comfort to victims to know that perpetrators of serious crimes against them will not one day walk free.
What do you all think about this issue? For those under 18 who commit crimes and receive life sentences, should LIFE be LIFE?