End juvenile life sentences

Everyone deserves a second chance

Mark Clements
By: Mark Clements

In March 2012, the Supreme Court heard arguments over whether or not it is cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a juvenile to life without the possibility of parole. The court is expected to make its decision on whether or not to ban this sentence before its June recess.

The Court needs to ban this sentence, and join the rest of the world that has already done so. 

There is hope that it will. Back in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled struck down life sentences for juveniles who were convicted of homicide, but did not specifically commit the crime,

It is an abomination that the United States continues to send youth as young as 13 years old to prison without ever allowing them the opportunity of parole—EVER! 

In the United States, over 140,000 people have been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). They have been told that they will never leave prison alive. Some 2,300 of them who were given that cruel sentence as juveniles.

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty does not support this sentence for juveniles or adults—it is a sentence that does not allow for rehabilitation and subjects people to degrading and inhumane conditions. 

I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole at the age of 16 for a crime I did not commit, and spent 28 years of my life behind bars. I believe that sentencing anyone to LWOP takes away the opportunity of redemption and sentences people to a “slow death” under horrible conditions.

Sadly, the conditions inside prisons are not meant to rehabilitate—they are designed to degrade, and that’s exactly what they do.

I believe everyone can change if given the chance. I have witnessed juvenile lifers like Joseph Rodriguez, Daniel Henney, Bobby Cooley, Jamie Jackson, Jacqueline Montanez, Adolfo Davis and many others achieve greatness, despite having a LWOP sentence. People change. Many people grow up, their minds develop, and they rethink the choices they’ve made. 

Those people deserve a second chance. Prisons should be a place of redemption, not destruction.