On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that will affect the lives of over 3000 individuals who are serving life terms without parole. The court's ruling (Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs) barred the mandatory sentencing of juvenile offenders to life without parole, and stated that it was unconstitutional under international human rights and constitutional law. Human Rights Watch noted that prior to this ruling, the US was the only country in the world which sentenced persons to life without parole for offenses committed before the age of 18, even for homicide offenses. 'With this landmark ruling, the United States is no longer an egregious outlier among nations in requiring judges to put kids in prison until they die there. The court did not go far enough, still allowing the sentence in rare cases, but it recognized that it is nearly impossible to be certain that any child is beyond redemption – and that the US criminal justice system needs to change to reflect this fact,' wrote Alison Parker, US Program Director at Human Rights Watch.
* * *In sharp contrast to today's visual treat (a creative photographic narrative by the late Luke Smalley), black youth serving life without parole are sentenced at a per capita rate that is 10 times the rate of white youth. According to ChildTrendsDataBank , tHuman Rights Watch also estimates that 59 percent of the youth serving life without parole in the United States received this sentence for their very first offense – they had no juvenile or adult criminal record prior to the offense that resulted in their life sentence.
* *In January 2012, Human Rights Watch released Against All Odds: Prison Conditions for Youth Offenders Serving Life Without Parole Sentences in the United States. This 47-page report draws on six years of research, and interviews and correspondence with correctional officials and hundreds of youth offenders serving life without parole. Human Rights Watch found that nearly every youth offender serving life without parole reported physical violence or sexual abuse by other inmates or corrections officers. Nationwide statistics indicate that young prisoners serving any type of sentence in adult prison, as well as those with a slight build and low body weight, are most vulnerable to attack. The report may be read via the link attached: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2012/01/03/against-all-odds.
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PS: Today's soundtrack is PUBLIC LOVER's I Try