The American Psychological Association has joined more than 100 legal, advocacy and social science groups in signing the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth’s statement of principles, oppose sentencing children younger than 18 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“We welcome the decision of the Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama as an important step towards outlawing one of the worst forms of inhuman sentencing of children, a sentence that violates international law and condemns children to die in prison. The decision is just one step, however, in eliminating these sentences in the USA and in eliminating the plethora of inhuman sentencing practices that children suffer globally, including life imprisonment in all its forms.”
–Veronica Yates, Director, Child Rights International Network
“It’s a hell of a thing to say to a child that you’ve done something so hideous you don’t ever deserve to be part of society again.”
–Ralph, who has been serving life without parole in Georgia for 20 years, since he was 17.
My name is Linda White. My 26-year-old daughter, Cathy Lyn O’Daniel, was killed by two teenagers in 1986 after she stopped to help them with car trouble.
Until my daughter’s death, I knew little about criminal or juvenile justice matters. And as I awaited the trials of the two teens, all I knew about them was that they were certified to stand trial as adults and had long criminal records. I considered them non-persons.
Eleven years ago, I asked to meet with one of the youth, Gary Brown, in a mediated dialogue. When I met him, I discovered a young man whose life had been one of abuse and neglect, a world apart from that of my childhood and that of my children. Though he offered no excuses for his actions, what he told me helped me to understand how he could have done such a tragic deed. His total remorse was an incredibly healing encounter for me.
Gary was released from prison in 2010 after serving 23 years of a 54-year sentence. He is a remarkably different person than he was as a teenager. He is proof that young people, even those who have done horrible things, can be transformed.
When my daughter was killed, I would have supported a sentence of life without parole for the juveniles who killed her. Today, I am proud to be part of the work that the Campaign has done to successfully scale back extreme sentencing for youth. And I am committed to partnering in the work ahead, as there is more to do to abolish death-in-prison sentences for all children and implement alternatives that hold children accountable in ways that reflect their age and capacity for change.