Thursday, April 21, 2011
Imprisonment for life without parole
As Thailand moves to abolish the death penalty, there are fears that, following US example, it will replace death by imprisonment for life without parole. The following leads one to doubt the wisdom of imitating US practice:
In the United States, dozens of 13- and 14-year-old children have been sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole after being prosecuted as adults. While the United States Supreme Court recently declared in Roper v. Simmons that death by execution is unconstitutional for juveniles, young children continue to be sentenced to imprisonment until death with very little scrutiny or review. A study by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has documented 73 cases where children 13 and 14 years of age have been condemned to death in prison. Almost all of these kids currently lack legal representation and in most of these cases the propriety and constitutionality of their extreme sentences have never been reviewed.
Most of the sentences imposed on these children were mandatory: the court could not give any consideration to the child’s age or life history. Some of the children were charged with crimes that do not involve homicide or even injury; many were convicted for offenses where older teenagers or adults were involved and primarily responsible for the crime; nearly two-thirds are children of color.