Juveniles | 2012
by Deborah LaBelle, Director, Juvenile Life Without Parole Initiative, Anna Phillips, Research
Coordinator and Laural Horton, Research Assistant
An excerpt from the report:
“Despite a global consensus that children cannot be held to the same standards of responsibility as adults, in the last twenty years the trend in the United States has been to punish children the same as adults. Children are increasingly excluded from the protection of juvenile courts based on the nature of the offense, without any consideration of their maturity, culpability, or current or future danger to society.
In particular, Michigan allows a child of any age to be tried as an adult, and excludes seventeen year-olds from juvenile treatment altogether. These children are then subject to adult punishment, incarcerated in adult prisons, and may be sentenced to life without parole. Despite their young age, these juveniles are expected to negotiate the legal system and understand the consequences of decisions that could result in a life without parole sentence, even though research suggests they are not capable of understanding what “forever” means. Since the 1980s, the number of children given life sentences without hope of release has increased dramatically and the cost of warehousing them for life is staggering to our communities and to our humanity.