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May 8, 2009

Human Rights Watch calls for federal legislation to eliminate juve LWOP

I was intrigued and pleased to see this press release from Human Rights Watch discussing its efforts to convince Congress (rather than just the Supreme Court) to eliminate LWOP sentences for juveniles in the United States.  Here are some of the interesting details:

The US Congress should pass a proposed law to end the sentencing of youth offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole,  Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to members of the House Judiciary Committee.  At least 2,574 individuals in the United States are serving these sentences for crimes they committed before they were 18 years old. The United States is the only country that uses such sentences for crimes committed by juveniles.

On May 6, 2009, Representatives Robert "Bobby" Scott and John Conyers introduced H.R. 2289, the Juvenile Justice Accountability and Improvement Act of 2009, in the US House of Representatives.  The bill would require states and the federal government to offer youth offenders meaningful opportunities for parole after serving 15 years of a life sentence....  

The introduction of the bill coincided with Human Rights Watch's release of new figures showing that there are currently at least 2,574 persons in US prisons who were sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed before the age of 18, an increase of 90 from May 2008.

The higher number is due primarily to improvements in data reporting rather than significant increases in the number of youth sentenced to life without parole.  Increases were most dramatic in California (250 total, an increase of 23), Michigan (346 total, an increase of 30), and the federal Bureau of Prisons (37 total, an increase of 35).  Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Texas also saw increases in juvenile life without parole.  The states with the largest numbers of prisoners serving this sentence are Pennsylvania (444), Michigan (346), Louisiana (335), Florida (266), and California (250).

Researchby Human Rights Watch found that nationwide, 59 percent of youth serving life without parole sentences received the sentence for their first criminal conviction, and 16 percent were 15 or younger at the time of their offense.  An estimated 26 percent were convicted on the basis of accomplice liability or felony murder.  These are crimes in which a teenager who commits a non-homicide felony such as a robbery is held responsible for a codefendant's act of murder during the course of the crime.  State laws often do not require the person convicted on this charge to know that a murder was planned or even that the codefendant was armed....  

Human Rights Watch has also found substantial racial disparities in life without parole sentences given to juveniles. On average across the country, black youth are serving life without parole at a per capita rate that is 10 times that of white youth. In Pennsylvania, which has the largest number of juvenile offenders serving life without parole, black youth are 21 times as likely to be serving the sentence as white youth....  

On May 4, the US Supreme Court agreed to decide whether life without parole for juveniles who have committed only non-homicide crimes violates the US Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. The case will be heard in the court's next term, which begins in October.

Other posts on juve LWOP and on recent SCOTUS grants:

May 8, 2009 at 08:24 AM | Permalink


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They are slicing the salami. It begins with an arbitrary, unjustified immunity from the death penalty. LWOP is next. It will end up as total immunity from any consequence, and a license to kill for the client of this lawyer criminal cult enterprise front organization.

Not a single criticism of the rampaging, butchering, lethal predator.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 8, 2009 9:22:30 AM

Oh, come on. No one has proposed that.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | May 8, 2009 12:52:29 PM

HRW obviously doesn't believe in the rule of law, since such a bill would be patently unconstitutional.

Posted by: federalist | May 8, 2009 12:56:44 PM

So would a federal law that established a national drinking age of 21. That hasn't prevent Congress from making very large sums of money contingent on passing 21-to-drink laws at the state level.

(I oppose that method as well, but it's at least more of a gray area)

Posted by: Anon23 | May 8, 2009 1:23:33 PM

If predicated on spending power, then analysis is different. The requirement of meaningful parole opportunities may hijack the state's machinery too much even under spending power precedent.
Not surprising to see a tax-cheating and criminal coddling POS like Conyers supporting this. What is it about Dems and criminals?

Posted by: federalist | May 8, 2009 1:46:19 PM

The level of self delusion in federalist and Supremacy Claus' comments is stunning.

SC, as usual, just makes up stuff with no basis in reality at all, while federalist continues to interpret the Constitution as though the Civil War never occurred.

It really makes for a bizarre debate sometimes on these comment strings.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | May 8, 2009 2:15:27 PM

It seems that, if there is the political will in Congress, it would be easy enough to do this through the spending power. The states are awash in federal policing/corrections money.

Alternatively, the Senate could join the 193 countries that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. That plus the Supremacy Clause would do it. Of course, that would leave poor Somalia out in the cold as the only UN country not to ratify the CRC. But they may have an excuse, as I'm not sure they have a properly constituted government.

Posted by: Anon | May 8, 2009 3:00:52 PM

Grist: The lawyer made no complaint of LWOP until the death penalty was overturned for young people. What is there to stop a demand for ever decreasing consequences for the lawyer client? They will test the limits of forbearance until no one is in jail, as in Massachusetts, a leading indicator of left wing ideology.

As to the lawyer calling anyone delusional, that is ironic. The lawyer believes in mind reading, future forecasts of rare accidents, standards of conduct set by fictional characters, chains of causation, and a myriad of other concepts that do not exist in nature. These cannot even be reliably or specifically described so that two people can apply them to the same facts and come out with the same conclusion. And I have not been able to persuade any of the falsity of these ideas. That fixedness of false belief is the distinctive quality of delusion.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 8, 2009 3:03:50 PM

Uh, anon, what's the vote required to ratify a treaty--think you got 67 votes? And then we'd have to deal with whether it was self-executing . . . . And the States would likely argue that the treaty violated the constitution as well.

Grits, I seriously doubt you want to get into a constitutional debate with me.

Posted by: federalist | May 8, 2009 4:48:19 PM

"What is it about Dems and criminals?"

That is an easy one. The Rent Seeking Theory. The criminal generates many worthless government jobs. So it is kept alive and undeterred. One may not lay a finger on it. One may not even verbally criticize it, in case it feels bad about its criminal choices, and changes them.

On the other hand, the deceased generate no government jobs.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 9, 2009 2:49:59 AM

Marc: I have to correct myself. The salami is gone already. Today, the criminal has to commit hundreds of crimes before anything happens to the criminal. The criminal now has nearly absolute immunity from the criminal lover lawyer. There are 5 million violent crimes a year, only the smallest fraction get investigated. Only the smallest fraction of those get solved. Only the smallest fraction gets prosecuted.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 9, 2009 10:00:53 AM

Juvenile LWOP or LOSOR, (Lifetime On Sex Offender Registry) it is all the same to me! In this country you can forever destroy a child's ENTIRE life, imprison them or mark them forever, you just can't Hit them or Kill them, that would be inhumane and abusive and of course against our Law! The general differences between juveniles under 18 and adults was confirmed, wasn't it? In Roper Vs. Simone in 2005, Banning Death penalty for murder in cases where defendent has not obtained the age of 18. (1 mere second of a youths 18th birth year, mean death) The Rule of Law is certainly not perfect but isn't there a line drawn as far as the Law is concerned. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy took notice of scientific and sociological studies that confirm three general differences between juveniles under 18 and adults, demonstrating that juvenile offenders cannot with reliability be classified among the worst offenders, deserving of the death penalty. First, youths display a "lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility" that "often result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions." For that reason, wrote Kennedy, almost every State prohibits those under 18 years of age from voting, serving on juries, or marrying without parental consent. Second, juveniles are more vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and peer pressure, and, "lack the freedom that adults have to extricate themselves from a criminogenic setting." Third, the character of a juvenile is not as well-formed as that of an adult. "From a moral standpoint it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed," wrote Kennedy.

Posted by: Honest Opinion | May 9, 2009 11:35:36 AM

40 year olds are more mature than 20 year olds, and are more well-formed. Also true of the 60 and the 80 year old. Crime rates decrease with age. They peak in the 20's, making adolescents more moral and aware of legality than people in their 20's. Adolescent criminals are more deviant from their age cohorts than those in their 20's. Adolescent murderers would then be more dangerous, and more deviant than those in their 20's.

For 100,000 years, adulthood was at 14, the biological landmark. Morals and ethics are evident at age 3, after limit setting on the 2 year old, and are nearly fully formed at age 7. Kennedy picked scientific studies that suited his lawyer criminal lover agenda.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 9, 2009 12:27:41 PM

What is wrong with you people? I bet if it was your child serving a life sentence without parole, you would have a different mind set on the justice system. There are more juveniles serving life without parole than adults in this country. EX:Charles Manson, Mass Murderer, he goes up for a chance at parole all the time. But a child cant have that chance. There is something morally wrong here. Also, everyone needs to stop being so blind at the fact that, so many children are not getting a fair trial and sentencing. Judges make a lot of money on how many children they can send to prison. Before anyone can critize, they need to do their homework and speak with a parent who has a child in prison, then decide. You will be shocked! A proud supporter of abolishing Juvenile Life Without Parole!

Posted by: Patricia | May 9, 2009 3:17:18 PM

"Adolescent criminals are more deviant from their age cohorts than those in their 20's. Adolescent murderers would then be more dangerous, and more deviant than those in their 20's."

And where are the studies/facts that support this notion? I have never seen anything that states that adolescent murderers are more dangerous, in fact statistics show that any murderer adult/child are in fact rarely ever commit another murder. So where do you get off saying they are more dangerous?

"Kennedy picked scientific studies that suited his lawyer criminal lover agenda. "

At least he is using scientific studies, even if they are biased to support his agenda its a lot then i can say for you SC, you seem to pull facts out of thin air to support your fascist ideologies.

Posted by: MarkM | May 9, 2009 4:20:41 PM


6% make it out of crime.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 9, 2009 5:25:16 PM

federalist writes: "Grits, I seriously doubt you want to get into a constitutional debate with me."

True - I don't really want to have anything to do with you at all.

And to SC: I'm not a lawyer. Find another hobbyhorse.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | May 9, 2009 6:27:46 PM

Grits: We have no dispute. I wish you well, however much we may disagree. It does not bother me to get bashed by you. Keep it funny, and all is forgiven.

You are not part of an effluvia taking down this country. It must be stopped by a strong, Lincoln class executive. After the terrorist lover lawyer encourages a major terrorist attack on the country it hates, the risk to 1776 is totally unpredictable.

I would like to draft the ensuing lawyer control Constitutional Amendments. The lawyer profession will thank me later. They are twice as oppressed as the public by this toxic hierarchy.

If I know lawyers, I sincerely doubt Federalist wants to bully a civilian in a lawyer gibberish smackdown. I would bet on Federalist in a smackdown on Scotus's own territory anytime. Scotus is a real romantic who defends the indefensible. He is funny.

I appreciate your challenging comments. I will gladly take you down 10 levels of depth of arguments if you desire.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 9, 2009 7:05:44 PM

Patricia: Is your son innocent? Then he should be released immediately. There is a high chance he is, given the total incompetence of the lawyer and judge, and their reliance on unlawful, Medieval garbage core doctrines. You should then be able to sue for all damages. You will not be able, given the airtight, self-dealt immunities of these vile cult criminals.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 9, 2009 7:20:55 PM

I have a friend who has been in Louisiana State Penitentary for 16yrs. he is now 31yrs. old, if you do the math you will see that he never served time in a juvenile correctional facility first. He had to become a man at a very young age to deal with an adult prison. He was given life without parole over self defense, the person (an adult) who "armed robbed him" is walking free. The judge that sentenced him has a very bad reputation, he told my friend, he knew his case could be overturned but he wanted to make an example out of him first. This judge was in trouble 5yrs ago for his insensitivity, it was known nationwide what he did and all he got was a "slap on the hand" by the supreme court, now he is in trouble again for the same thing.Hopefully this time it will open peoples eyes to the injustice that he has put on so many innocent people.

What really bugs me the most is peple critizing, saying that at a young age if you kill someone, you are dangerous for the rest of your life. That is not true at all. This man now, has a GED, Class A welding Certificate, he built the Angola rodeo stadium, he has all types of certifications, now he is about to make trustee status. He rehabilitated himself, this goes to show you that children can be rehabilitated, and they dont have the same mind frame when they were a child.

Visit hr4300.com

Posted by: Patricia | May 9, 2009 7:48:49 PM

You are really describing an innocent person.

"...the person (an adult) who "armed robbed him" is walking free."

Thank the criminal lover lawyer. The lawyer has given the dangerous criminal nearly absolute immunity. The vile criminal lover lawyer then executes people who are innocent, and imprisons easy targets. The criminal cult enterprise that runs the three branches of government must be stopped.

Self-defense is a justification, and he should be released, with apologies and damages.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 9, 2009 8:01:10 PM

People may say, not a lawyer. That gives you credibility.

However, I would like them to start adding, "But, I am an owner of the law."

The law is a chattel. The public owns it, as it does a battleship or a toaster. The lawyers are law technicians that have criminally converted it for their profit and power. So legal gibberish above the sixth grade level should void the legal utterance, and subject the utterer to arrest. Wacky appellate decisions that increase lawyer jobs should be voidable, and should subject the judge to arrest for criminal conversion of public property. To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 10, 2009 6:09:13 AM

Yeah, Grits, nothing to do with me. Whatever. Your comment was silly, and I think you know it.

Posted by: federalist | May 11, 2009 11:29:29 AM

"What is wrong with you people? I bet if it was your child serving a life sentence without parole, you would have a different mind set on the justice system. There are more juveniles serving life without parole than adults in this country. EX:Charles Manson, Mass Murderer, he goes up for a chance at parole all the time. But a child cant have that chance. There is something morally wrong here. Also, everyone needs to stop being so blind at the fact that, so many children are not getting a fair trial and sentencing. Judges make a lot of money on how many children they can send to prison. Before anyone can critize, they need to do their homework and speak with a parent who has a child in prison, then decide. You will be shocked! A proud supporter of abolishing Juvenile Life Without Parole!"

Wow, Patricia. Your post encapsulates everything that is wrong with the soft on crime crowd.

Self-righteousness, check, "What is wrong with you people?"

The other side is ignorant, check, "I bet if you had a son . . . ."

Appeal to "fairness", check, if Manson has eligibility for parole so should juvie offenders. (I must have missed the day in school where they taught that every criminal is entitled to the same treatment as each other criminal arguably worse than he or she is.)

Argument by anecdote, check, if some juvenile judges are corrupt, then entire juvie justice system is corrupt and therefor juvie LWOP is wrong.

Patricia, I am sorry that you think that your friend is an innocent man. Perhaps your time would be well-spent enlisting attorneys to work on his behalf on a pro bono basis.

Posted by: federalist | May 11, 2009 11:40:45 AM

It's not that I think my friend is innocent, I know he is innocent. Yes, he does have an attorney working on his case. My time is well spent on being involved with organizations to abolish LWOP for children. I enjoy every minute of it! Yes, I do have a son and that's why I chose to involve myself in this particular issue.

What I mean by "What is wrong with you people?" is that you can't judge every child (or anybody for that matter)who has been convicted of a crime. Unless, you have the facts first. A child can be rehabilitated and a productive law-abiding citizen. For instance, my friends' brother was charged with him, he went up for parole 7yrs ago, he is a totally different person than what he was at 15yrs old. He is a productive law-abiding citizen, he has a family and an awesome job. Not once did he violate his parole either.

You can beleive one thing, in the sate of Louisiana, they are not soft on crime. In the city of New Orleans yeah, but not in the rest of the state. Especially, the small cities like Houma, where the judges make their own laws.

Why don't you take your "well spent time" on researching more on the injustice to children, since you already took the time to read about this (obviously it has your interest). Then, you can make your own judgements.

Posted by: Patricia | May 11, 2009 9:18:34 PM

Patricia, ever stop to think that while some juvies who commit serious crimes may be able to be rehabilitated, figuring out which ones ain't so easy. And that's on top of the fundamental injustice of a murderer getting a life when his victim had his taken.

Posted by: federalist | May 12, 2009 11:09:38 PM

I have to say that I am behind what Patricia is saying. She is surely right. I know because I am the mother of a child that has LWOP.
To those who do not know how this feels, I will tell you, it is one of the hardest things in life that you will have to deal with. It is not only the child that is being punished, but the intire family...
I blame a lot of this on our already faultering court system. When they stopped us as parents from punishing our childern, they took away all of our control. It is against the law for us to abuse our children in any way, but what do you think the court system has done to our children?
Our children that are sentenced to LWOP are not only mentally, but physically abused. Abused by our courts, our Judges, " that in my opinion are only people too and put their pants on one leg at a time" Why are they allowed to abuse the youth of our country and we are not allowed to spank them. We are their parents, not the court system!!!!!!
My son was only 15 at the time of his crime, and thrown into an adult jail. He was sentenced as an adult, but while locked up was not allowed to buy tobacco. If you are going to try a child as an adult and more or less say they are 18 or older, then they should be allowed to do as an adult would do.. They confuse these children to no end. Your are an adult in some cases, but in others still a child.. Now stop and think what that does to a childs mind.
I am sure all of you have heard the saying," Promises are ment to be broken." well there is also another saying that needs to be used in this and it is "Laws are ment to be changed." Laws get old and out dated and need to be changed here and there. This is one of those laws. I am all for this, and I do not believe that any Child should have LWOP. If you are in a car, and your drunk, you get in an accident kill the driver of the other car, why in this case do you not get LWOP? You killed and were dwi at the same time.. So what is the difference.
They need to give the parents back the rights to punish their children. I am not saying beat them to where there is harm done, but allow us to have back the control of our youth, and stop allowing our court system to abuse our youth.
Judges are only people too, and they make mistakes just like all others. But let a judge committ a crime and see what happens. He gets off with the minimun, but let one of us do the same crime, and they throw the book at us. Come on. do you actually think that our laws are just. Not even close....In some places, its who you know and how much money you have. I happen to live in one of those places. I was a single mom doing my best to raise my son, but did not have the money for a proper attorney. So of course, he was given a IDB. He would of been as well off not to have an attorney at all. IDB's work for the court system, not for you....He actually had 2 IDB attorneys. but the first one was let go because she was actually proving his case. The second one did nothing to help him and of course all the evidence that the first IDB attorney found, could not be found. Now go figure...
I can go on about this forever, because this topic just infuriates me to no end. I know there are some that really deserve to be locked up , but there are others that do deserve that second chance at life....Like Patricia said, if people like Charles Manson can go up for parole, then why shouldn't our youth be allowed to do the same thing. If our laws and law officials are so perfect and don't need to be changed, then why is there a parole board even put in place? They are there to pick the ones that they feel are capable of rehabilation. Let them do the job that they are paid for. I am 100% behind ending LWOP for our youth...

Posted by: M | May 15, 2009 7:22:16 AM

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