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May 31, 2008

LDF report documents disparties in juve LWOP in Mississippi

This AP article reports on a new report on juve LWOP that came out this past week:

Most juveniles sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in Mississippi are black, a disparity that underscores the need to reform sentencing guidelines, according to a report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Poverty, lack of education and broken homes are among other traits shared by youngsters sentenced to spend the rest of their lives behind bars, the report said.

Twenty of the 26 people currently serving life without parole after being convicted as juveniles in Mississippi are black, according to the 28-page report released this week.  Blacks make up about 37 percent of Mississippi’s population, but comprise nearly 80 percent of the juvenile offenders serving life sentences.

Research is under way to determine if similar percentages of juvenile minorities are sentenced to life without parole in other states, but the Legal Defense Fund report focused solely on Mississippi, said Holly Thomas, assistant counsel for the organization. “We tried to look at Mississippi as a microcosm of a larger issue,” Thomas told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The new report by LDF is titled "No Chance to Make it Right: Life Without Parole for Juvenile Offenders in Mississippi," and it can be accessed at this link.  The official LDF webpage provides this summary of the report:

[This] groundbreaking report examining the racial, social, political, and economic circumstances surrounding juvenile life without parole sentencing in Mississippi. LDF's study, the first comprehensive analysis of Mississippi's practice of sentencing teenagers to life without parole, finds that blacks are significantly overrepresented among the youth currently serving such sentences.  In light of this and other troubling findings, LDF calls for a series of reforms including the immediate elimination of life without parole sentences for juveniles.

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May 31, 2008 at 11:49 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Comparing the number of juve LWOPs to the percentage of population is disingenuous--given the differences in the rates of offending.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 1, 2008 9:26:46 AM

A 19-year-old black man was sentenced in Pascagoula, Mississippi to 55 years in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl when he was 18. I realize that under the law he was not considered a juvenile (according to my research juvenile ends at 17), but was this too harsh of a sentence? Those who are convicted of murder do not get this long of a sentence. This is an example of the disparity in the legal system in Mississippi. The presiding judge was Dale Harkey and the district attorney was Tony Lawrence. This system needs fixing.

Posted by: Liberalist | Jun 20, 2008 12:40:09 PM

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