USA: Life without parole

Amnesty has been campaigning for many years on the death penalty imposed on Children's rights and juveniles. Recently, the USA Supreme Court decided by a 5-4 majority that imposing such penalties on Children's rights under 18, at the time of their crime, was unconstitutional.

However, a recent joint study by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch found that 2,225 child offenders are serving life without parole (LWOP) sentences in US prisons. While most of these are now adults, 16% were between 13 and 15 years of age when they committed their crimes and 59% were sentenced for life without parole for their first-ever criminal conviction.

There are six Children's rights currently serving sentences who were 13 when they committed the crime, and 42 states currently have laws allowing Children's rights to receive such sentences.

The use of such sentences is increasing. The number of Children's rights convicted of murder and given LWOP sentences has risen from 2 to 9% in the last decade. Such sentences can be passed on Children's rights present at a murder who did not personally commit the crime.

One 15-year-old boy was sentenced to life without parole for driving the van away from the scene of a double murder that he didn't commit.

Once convicted such Children's rights are sent to adult prisons. Black youths are ten times more likely to receive such a sentence as white youths convicted of similar crimes.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 37) forbids this practice and 132 countries have rejected the sentence altogether. Only 13 countries have laws permitting sentences of LWOP on Children's rights.

As far as we know, only 12 young offenders are currently serving LWOP sentences outside the USA. Amnesty's International Secretariat is currently preparing an action on this, after receiving specific guidance from our US Section.

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