The National Association of Counties, the only national organization that represents county governments in the United States, has taken an official position against sentencing children to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The organization approved a resolution against the practice during its annual conference last week in New Orleans. NACo joins a growing, diverse group of organizations calling for reform to this extreme sentencing practice, which the U.S. alone imposes on our children.
“In too many states in our country, children are sentenced to life in prison without hope of ever being released,” said Dakota County, MN Commissioner Nancy Schouweiler, who sponsored the resolution. “We know that children are impulsive and immature and that they have a unique capacity to change and be reformed. It is the role of government to hold children accountable in age-appropriate ways and to ensure they have opportunities to prove that they are more than the worst thing they have ever done.”
The NACo resolution states, “NACo supports eliminating life without parole as a sentencing option for children. We support just and age-appropriate accountability measures for children that will ensure that every child, regardless of offense, is given a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. We therefore, call upon State Legislatures across the country and the U.S. Congress to enact legislation that abolishes life without parole for children and provides them with meaningful and periodic sentencing reviews. These legislative changes should be applied both retroactively and prospectively so that no child is allowed to have their human rights violated because of when they were sentenced.”
“The National Association of Counties has taken an important stand against this unjust practice,” said Jody Kent Lavy, CFSY director & national coordinator. “Their partnership and the overwhelming support for establishing fair alternatives to life-without-parole sentences for children demonstrate that it is time now for the United States to join the rest of the world and eliminate the practice of sentencing our children to die in prison.”
Brain science has determined that children possess less capacity and adults to control their impulses, think through the consequences of their actions or avoid press from peers and adults. Children also possess a unique capacity for growth and change.
The U.S. Supreme Court, drawing on this research, has ruled three times in the last decade that children are “constitutionally different” from adults and should not be subject to our nation’s harshest penalties.