USA: Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joint study -- The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the U.S.

Report
October 12, 2005

USA: Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joint study -- The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the U.S.

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U.S. federal and state governments have the responsibility of ensuring community safety. But government is also responsible for ensuring that justice is served when a person is tried, convicted, and sentenced. The terrible crimes committed by children can ruin lives, causing injury and death to the victims and grief to their families and friends. Sentencing must reflect the seriousness of the crime, but it also must acknowledge that culpability can be substantially diminished by reason of the youth and immaturity of the perpetrator. Child offenders should be given the possibility of freedom one day, when they have matured and demonstrated their remorse and capacity for rehabilitation.

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Note: In keeping with international human rights standards, throughout this report we use the terms "child" and "children" to refer to persons under the age of eighteen. Unless otherwise indicated, all references to youth, adolescents, minors, and juveniles also refer to persons under the age of eighteen.


1 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Frank C., Colorado, October 22, 2004.

2 Human Rights Watch interview with Cheryl J., McPherson Unit, Newport, Arkansas, June 24, 2004 (pseudonym). Throughout this report, as indicated, prisoners' names have been concealed through the use of pseudonyms in order to protect their security and privacy. Everyone interviewed for this report was age eighteen or older at the time of the interview.

3 Human Rights Watch interview with Javier M., Colorado State Penitentiary, Cañon City, Colorado, July 26, 2004 (pseudonym).