Thrown Away: Juvenile Lifers
Forty-six people sentenced as juveniles in Colorado will spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole, a sentence that is cruel, unfair and unnecessary, a report says. Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group, will release a highly critical study today called "Thrown Away: Children Sentenced to Life Without Parole in Colorado."
Colorado law requires judges to impose life without parole on children as young as 12 if they commit first-degree murder. International human rights law bars that practice, as well as the death penalty, and recognizes that the purpose of punishment is deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation, the report says.
"This issue of sentencing juveniles to life without parole is clearly prohibited by human rights law and it's astonishing the United States still practices this when 133 counties around the world don't, and in fact never have," said Alison Parker, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.
Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill to end the practice, but after opposition from several district attorneys at a hearing Thursday, it's been put on hold. There's more in this 1997 report, High Country Lockup:
Too many children are being held prisoner in Colorado, and as a
result they live in crowded conditions that are sometimes unsafe and frequently devoid of activities that would prepare them to be useful citizens when they are released. One institution is so bad it is operating under a court order. Another, a private institution with children from several states, so appalled officials from Idaho that it withdrew its inmates. These are among the highlights of our examination of juvenile detention in Colorado, a state whose snowcapped mountains and crisp air offers an image that is too often belied by its institutions.
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