Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 01:15:49 PM EST
A very brief diary. I was just skimming the online version of Aftenposten - Norway's paper of record - and came across an article about punishment of minors. The article was primarily based on this recently released report from Human Rights Watch:
The Rest of Their Lives
Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States
I only read the summary, but that alone is quite illuminating. I guess we keep piling it on here at BT for the US - in this case, it is well deserved.
This report is the first ever national analysis of life without parole sentences for children. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have discovered that there are currently at least 2,225 people incarcerated in the United States who have been sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison for crimes they committed as children. In the United States, departments of corrections do not maintain publicly accessible and accurate statistics about child offenders incarcerated in adult prisons, and there is no national depository of these data. Therefore, we were able to collect data on individuals sentenced to life without parole for crimes they committed as children only by requesting that it be specially produced for us by each state's corrections department.
Virtually all countries in the world reject the punishment of life without parole for child offenders. At least 132 countries reject life without parole for child offenders in domestic law or practice. And all countries except the United States and Somalia have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which explicitly forbids "life imprisonment without possibility of release" for "offenses committed by persons below eighteen years of age." Of the 154 countries for which Human Rights Watch was able to obtain data, only three currently have people serving life without parole for crimes they committed as children, and it appears that those four countries combined have only about a dozen such cases.
So the US has not ratified the CRC, there are at least 2,225 prisoners convicted to life without parole for crimes committed while they were children vs. "about a dozen" in the rest of the world that can be surveyed!
Fortunately, there are states that do not allow this shameful practice, but they are in a tiny minority - only 7 states and the District of Columbia prohibit such harsh sentencing.
Our research shows significant differences among the states in the use of life without parole sentences for children. For example, Virginia, Louisiana, and Michigan have rates that are three to seven-and-a-half times higher than the national average of 1.77 per 100,000 children nationwide. At the other end of the spectrum, New Jersey and Utah permit life without parole for children but have no child offenders currently serving the sentence. Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Mexico, New York, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia all prohibit the sentence for youth offenders.
Should the US remain in solidarity with Somalia as the only nations that have not ratified the CRC?