Should Teenage Offenders Serve Adult Sentences?

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Madison Castello, Staff Writer

Personally, I believe that jail for life without parole is way too harsh of a sentence for a teenager under the age of 18. Children as young as 13, can be sentenced to life in prison without parole. The American Civil Liberties Union states “approximately 2,570 children are sentenced to juvenile life without parole or “JLWOP” in the United States.”  The United States is the only country that imprisons young adults to life without parole.

Truthloader states “around 100,000 actually end up in adult jails and prisons, with many spending time in solitary confinement.” That means that 2.5% of young adults going to jail are sentenced to life without parole. Alison Parker, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch comments, “but if they are too young to vote or buy cigarettes, they are too young to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.”

One person affected by these harsh laws is Stacey T. from Pennsylvania, who is 14 years old. He was convinced by his cousin to help rob his girlfriend’s brother. Stacey agreed and pretended to be murdered in front of the victim to allow Stacey’s cousin to get the car keys. After Stacey’s role was over, he went home. Once he left, Stacey’s cousin shot the victim and Stacey was convicted of second-degree murder. Stacey had a clean record and was a good student before the incident, now he is serving the rest of his life behind bars without parole.

The American Civil Liberties Union states, “the Supreme Court ruled in June 2012 that juveniles convicted of murder cannot be subject to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.” This seems like an extremely good thing but only 29 states have such laws. Stacey T. was sentenced in a state that doesn’t have a law in regards to life without parole, so this decision didn’t change his sentence.  I believe that young adults should be punished for their crimes but not sentenced to the rest of their life in prison when they are still too young to think about their choices. If they are not old enough to vote, then they do not deserve to be punished and confined for the rest of their life.

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